At first glance Margaret Greene looks like the stereotypical image of a CWL member: short grey hair, sensible walking shoes,and a collection of pins on her lapel. Ask her how long she’s been a member and another image begins to reveal itself. One that includes hiking boots and jumping over iguanas in central america.
“I’m from Nova Scotia, but I did most of my CWL years in Alberta.” Greene and her husband moved to Calgary shortly after they married. Greene was nurse, but only practiced for a few years after she married. Although her family in Nova Scotia was active in the local parish, the CWL and other lay groups were not part of their reality. It was in Calgary that Greene met the league.
“I was new in my parish in Calgary, always hanging in the back alone. And a woman came up to me and asked if I like to sing.” Greene says she always loved singing and jumped at the invitation to join the parish choir. Then she heard fellow choir members talking about the CWL.
Greene joined the parish CWL council, which she says was a large council, and discovered the joy of connecting with other Catholic women. It was that network of friendships with other Catholic women that got her through one of her most difficult life moments: becoming a widow at the age of 51.
“He had diabetes and pretty much all things you could think of” she recalls. “His heart failed and he was on life support for three months.” Finally doctors advised Greene that there was nothing more they could do to actively help her husband and recommended taking him off life support. It was Good Friday. “I told the doctors I would talk to them on Monday.” Greene spent the Easter weekend surrounded by her sisters in the league. Her work on the parish and diocesan executive also gifted her with close friendships with local priests who helped her through the experience. “I couldn’t pray at that time. I couldn’t calm down enough to pray. But they prayed for me. They got me through it.”
With her husband gone Greene began to ask herself “what now?” Providence stepped in. Greene attended a talk about the civil war going on Guatemala. “It was like I got hit in the head.” She wanted to know more about the situation and how a Canadian woman in Calgary could do something to help. A friend put her in touch with a Notre Dame sister who in turn put Greene in touch with what she calls a “solidarity group.”
In 2000 Greene traveled to Belize as part of a tour group organized by this solidarity movement. The group crossed into Guatemala where the organizers had arranged for two villagers to share their experiences with the group. “I suddenly realized its all about the people” says Greene.
She came back from that first trip determined to help in some way and unable to go back to life as it was before. In 2003 she made the first of what would be eight trips solidarity trips to Guatemala. On those trips Greene and her travel companions visit villages to hear about what locals experienced during the civil war. Today they hear stories about what is happening to the village when foreign mining companies set up shop.
Eventually Greene returned to Nova Scotia and found herself a CWL council to join in Pictou. She made a presentation to her council about her solidarity trips to Guatemala only to learn that council had been supporting a project in Guatemala run by Canadian Notre Dame sisters. “So the next trip I made I hand delivered the council’s donation” Green recalls, launching into a story of orchestrating the money hand over the middle of a Guatemalan village.
Through all the twists and turns in her life Greene reflects on the things that counted the most “it’s the Catholic friendships. Thats what its all about.”