News Story

Faith Communities Celebrate International Women’s Day in Alberta

Five outstanding women were honoured for their contributions to the community at an interfaith event commemorating International Women’s Day on March 8, 2024, in St. Albert, Alberta. Members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints joined with those of other faiths to mark the event, which focussed on the theme “Inspire Inclusion” and sought to celebrate, value and honour local women making a difference in the community. For the first time in its history, the St. Albert International Women’s Day event also recognized a young woman for her outstanding volunteer service.

Relief Society General President Camille N. Johnson recently said, “If all of the women in this world would understand the concept that they could lift where we stand, if we empower them through freedom of religion and belief to do so, I’m confident that we really can change the world” (“President Johnson Marks International Women’s Day 2024”). President Johnson gave these remarks after addressing the European Union Parliament in Brussels, Belgium, just before International Women’s Day 2024.

St. Albert International Women’s Day Partnership

Twenty-seven years ago, the Baha’i community initiated an annual International Women’s Day event in St. Albert to celebrate local women serving in the community. Last year, St. Albert Interfaith Connections (SAIC) joined the Baha’i faith community to host the event.

The purpose of our International Women’s Day celebration is to honour women whose significant contributions have made a tremendous difference in our community, because we feel that by honouring these women, we honour all women,” explained Leasa Sulz, the Edmonton Alberta North Stake communication director and a member of SAIC.

SAIC, formed in 2020, consists of volunteers from many faiths: Baha’i, Catholicism, Islam, Judaism, Presbyterianism, Scientology and The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. SAIC is dedicated to raising awareness and celebrating the principles and values of all religions.

We serve together, choosing, organizing and orchestrating two meaningful events for our community every year,” said Sulz. “As we work together, we not only learn about each other’s religious beliefs, we gain a deeper understanding and appreciation for one another’s faith. We find that our interfaith connection provides us with opportunities for dialogue, increasing our respect and consideration of others.”

Inspire Inclusion’ Event

Deputy Mayor Natalie Joly welcomed participants to the event. Keynote speaker Mary O’Neill, former St. Albert minister of the legislative assembly and past International Women’s Day recipient, reminded the audience that “sharing inclusion and equality for women does not diminish what others have. In sharing, all progress and are elevated.”

Before the awards were presented to the honourees, Latter-day Saint Kirsten Sanders performed her original composition for viola, entitled “Theme and Variations in Honour of Women.”

Award Recipients

This year’s award recipients represented diverse ages, backgrounds and faiths. Each, in her own way, has inspired inclusion in her community.

Barbara Riley received the International Women’s Day award for community service. She is motivated by her faith and desire to serve others, indicated by her volunteer contributions that have spanned 80 years. Countless community members, including refugees and immigrants, continue to benefit from her pastoral care and help. “When you give from your heart, not expecting any pay, you are freely sharing your God-given gifts with others,” she said. “We all have time, talent and listening ears to share, and we all have a responsibility to reach out and share what we have.”

The Honourable Justice Lisa Tchir accepted an award acknowledging her work related to humanitarian and Indigenous rights and the status of women. She has served as a Crown prosecutor, and through her work with the Ministry of the Status of Women, she helped create tools to ensure that inclusive language and gender-based analysis were addressed in every piece of legislation. As a judge, her respect for others, in the administration of justice and rule of law, has had a far-reaching, positive impact on society. She said, “I have learned that you don’t need any special resources or position to contribute. All you need to do is grow where you are planted and share the talents you have been given.”

Danielle Reed, an inspiring teacher, school counsellor and author, was recognized for empowering youth. Inclusion is a core value for Reed, who shares her insights by speaking at conferences and events throughout Alberta and serves as a facility coach and workshop facilitator. She tries to live her life by what she teaches. She said, “I remind my students, ‘You are creative, resourceful and whole. You first belong to yourself. What is important to you? Remember, even your imperfections will allow you to be more inclusive.’”

Irene Leduc has received medals of honour for her service to Canada as a physician assistant in the armed forces. Her compassion and dedication to the unhoused is ongoing and life-changing. Leduc, a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, believes that the “it takes a village” approach is most effective in helping others. She voluntarily reaches out to help many organizations and causes. Because she prefers to be in the background, she was presented with the Unsung Heroine and Humanitarian Award.

Madison Manchakowsky, a volunteer athletic trainer, was the recipient of an award for youth community service. She voluntarily collaborates with her high school’s coaches and their players to prevent athletic injuries and provide first aid when injuries occur. She is an energetic, highly focussed grade 12 student who recently completed a 48-hour bike-a-thon, raising $1,000 for cancer research. Her desire to help others, coupled with her skill as an athletic trainer, continue to make a significant difference in the St. Albert community.

Interfaith Efforts Bring Unity

According to Sulz, “Serving with SAIC has enriched my life and is a gift that I cherish. We have developed friendships and love for one another while working together for the purpose of enhancing our community. These are my sisters and brothers.”

Members of SAIC know that communities, families and countries are blessed when individuals of many religions and beliefs serve and work together.

Mary Ellen Smoot, former Relief Society General President, said, “Unity of purpose, thought and feeling are exalting qualities. When we can put aside our differences and value each others’ strengths, great things happen. The Prophet Joseph Smith admonished, ‘Don’t be limited in your views with regard to your neighbor’s virtue. … You must enlarge your souls towards each other.’ Such generosity of spirit invites greater unity” (“Developing Inner Strength,” April 2002 general conference).

Contributed by Carol Laycock

Style Guide Note:When reporting about The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, please use the complete name of the Church in the first reference. For more information on the use of the name of the Church, go to our online Style Guide.