Thank You Winnie!

The CANFP Board reluctantly accepted the retirement of a longtime member at our recent Fall Meeting. Winnie Neill, Vice President of the Executive Board of CANFP, retired from her position on the Board, following 14 years of faithful service.

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Winnie and Bob Neill

Winnie is a founding member of CANFP, and in fact participated in the meeting of NFP leaders in the early 1990s which gave birth to CANFP. Always an active Professional Member of CANFP, she responded to the call to serve as a member of the board in 2001, and responded with a YES four more times when asked to renew for a second, third, fourth, and fifth term on the board, never missing a meeting or conference. Many CANFP members interacted with her during the years she managed membership renewals, a task crucial to the healthy operation of the organization, and a great service to membership. Her husband Bob not only generously shared her time with us, but often drove for hours to a board meeting, waited all day, and drove hours back on the dark windy roads that lead to their retirement home in the mountains of Northern California.
CANFP was not the only, or even the first, to benefit from Winnie’s service to further the expansion of NFP service and professionalism. She is also a founding member of the American Academy of Natural Family Planning (now the American Academy of FertilityCare Professionals) and served on their national board. Winnie did not neglect her own Diocese of Sacramento, serving until recently on the Diocesan NFP Advisory Board.

Her service to these diocesan, state, and national organizations was valuable, in part because of her lengthy experience providing NFP services herself. Winnie has taught NFP since 1976, and was a pioneer in providing Creighton Model NFP services in California, as she was a student in one of the earliest education programs offered to train CrM NFP Practitioners. In her role on the front lines teaching NFP in one of the few Catholic hospital programs in California, providing presentations for engaged couples in her diocese, and putting all this practical field experience to use serving in leadership positions when called, Winnie’s expertise on NFP in California spans decades! While there are still many struggles and obstacles that face those promoting and teaching Natural Family Planning, much of the groundwork in establishing NFP programs was accomplished by Winnie and the generation of NFP teachers that served with her.

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Winnie Neill with Terry Maes, founding President of CANFP, at 1999 CANFP Conference

I honestly cannot recall a time something was asked of Winnie, that she did not say yes. One example of her dedication is when she served as site host for the CANFP state conference. We were scheduled to meet in Sacramento to visit potential sites she had researched, and even injury did not sideline her. She traipsed all over Sacramento, viewing sites, and eventually selecting one, in a wheelchair!

Of course, none of this could have been accomplished without the support of her family, as she and Bob reared four children throughout these years, and are now proud and engaged grandparents and great grandparents. While family was her priority, there are still missed games, performances, and special events when you take your professional responsibilities as seriously as Winnie does, and we thank her family for their sacrifices.

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Winnie and Bob Neill with Dr. Lynn Keenan, President of CANFP

I think the ultimate compliment for an NFP teacher was paid to Winnie, by a mutual colleague. There was discussion about what NFP teacher would be a good choice for a difficult case, and a fellow NFP teacher directed them to Winnie, saying, “she is who I would trust to teach my adult children”.

Retired from her position at the hospital teaching NFP, and the diocesan NFP advisory board, and now from her position on the CANFP board, will free Winnie to pursue further her active involvement in her local community, and spend more time with family. In accepting her resignation, I told Winnie I hoped she would continue to share her gifts with CANFP, even though she would now be relieved of the burden of the commitments of board service. She was quick to correct me, saying she never felt burdened by her service as a board member, and in fact found it an honor to serve alongside her colleagues on the board, a joy to contribute to the success of CANFP, and grateful she was able lighten the load for others by pitching in. And it is exactly with that attitude that she served—joyfully, selflessly, and reliably.

I am grateful she will only be a phone call away, and I do hope we will continue to benefit from her many talents. Because without that Winnie flair, future events would be just a little more drab.

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