In the aftermath of the 100th Remembrance Day events many images of past wars still flood our minds, no doubt aided by the film footage recording the sacrifices made by the men and women who participated. One night I watched a particularly poignant television program which featured some recently discovered film cans stored in the basement of an English city hall. The showing of these wartime films had a profound effect on the remaining family members who had been invited to view them and helped in some measure to fill the void not only for those whose fathers were killed in action, for the children who never knew them, but also for those survivors who had returned to their families yet were unable to speak about such traumatic events. Which leads me to…
These are one of every council’s treasures which contain the history of your council in the form of supportive documents. It is usually the responsibility of the Past President (Constitution & Bylaws (b) Section 7 Part xii) to ensure that all relevant documents are stored in a safe place and regularly updated. Before you dip into them I suggest that you check in your diocesan P&P to see if there are any specific details as to what to keep, and if there aren’t any I would advise you to include a list of essential items as well as information about their location and protocol to be followed when new items are lodged.
In all cases clear guidelines should be given as to what should be kept. These guidelines are spelled out in several league publications: Constitution & Bylaws, National Manual of Policy and Procedure, Executive Handbook, and Handbook for Past Presidents. There are also extra documents which my predecessor distributed in her term.
Early in November every parish council should have received the national memo mailing. National Past President, Margaret Ann Jacobs included a section in hers devoted to parish archives and provided a helpful list. Please remind the retiring past presidents of parish councils having elections at this time to pass this memo on to their successor. For this reason, my second communique will focus on diocesan archives.
A quick survey of our six diocesan councils revealed that some archives were updated on a regular basis. Ideally this should be done at the end of each president’s term. They should also be stored in a permanent location. If your diocese does not have this arrangement why not enquire if your diocesan office or cathedral has room for them. If you have been refused in the past, try again. Buildings are often enlarged or altered, and administrations change from time to time, so it is worth a second try. A central library might also be willing to store them at least for your term. In some cases, fees are charged, or a donation is offered.
We have all heard of instances where archives have been neglected, lost or destroyed, usually the result of unforeseen circumstances. We also know of instances where Past Presidents have died in office, become too ill, or moved to another council/town/province.
To avoid having a gap, a sub-committee could be set up so that the work can continue. The ideal blend for such a group would be to have an experienced member paired with a new or recent member, possibly near neighbours, who could travel together to the storage venue at least once in a term. Due notification of the proposed date and time of such visits should be sent to the archivist or person in charge.
My predecessor prepared a list to be attached to the folder of each provincial president. The list is checked off as the documents are received. I have attached a sample sheet to this communique, so please take time at your next executive meeting to discuss it and add or delete what works best for your diocesan council. Keep one copy attached to the president’s folder, and another in your laptop or binder.
As the years pass by, storage space could become a problem, so you may need to look into digitization of your records. My local librarian told me that grants are available for such activities from the BC Gaming Commission. I would think that a respected community service organization such as the CWL would be a likely candidate for such grants.
My First Experience with Archives
When I was first introduced to our parish archives by my past president, I was a fairly new member and a very new president, so I had no idea about what should be kept, or even if there were instructions available. What would I need with old membership lists? What was more important to me at the time was the list of our current membership and getting to know them! Now I know better! Two years later when past president, I learned that the minutes of our council’s early years had disappeared sometime during the nineteen fifties, possibly discarded when our new church was built, and meetings moved to a new location. I checked with our local museum and was able to read microfiche editions of old newspapers in which I found regular reports of CWL meetings and other events. I also visited the few existing charter members and other longtime members who were able to fill in some of our missing history. This was a very enjoyable experience.
Patron Saint of Archivists-Feast Day August 10th
Before tackling your archives, invoke the intercession of St Lawrence, who along with six other deacons served the Roman church in the mid-third century. As a deacon he was entrusted by Pope Sixtus to take care of the goods of the church as well as the distribution of alms to the poor. To read more about this saint whose name is included in the canon of the Mass, refer to Butler’s Lives of The Saints Volume 3 pp 297-299, 1956 edition.
Advent and Christmas
I hope your Advent will be blessed with opportunities for prayer and reflection. Our parish mission begins this weekend and has come at just the right time for me! May your Christmas be joyous with the peace of the Christ Child enfolding you and your loved ones.
May God bless you all,
And yes! Don’t forget to buy those colorful Christmas stamps showing the Nativity scene.