Anglican Church Women - History

Anglican Church Women of Canada is a loosely knit fellowship of all women in the Anglican Church of Canada. Its purpose is to give women the opportunity to unite in a fellowship of worship, study and service which will lead them into Christian service in the parish, community, diocese, nation and world. The St. Catherine’s ACW serves by raising money for parish needs, participating in diocesan ACW projects and supporting local and international charitable causes.

Like the national organization, the St. Catherine’s branch of the ACW has its roots in the Women's Auxiliary to the Missionary Society of the Church of England in Canada or W.A. The St. Catherine’s W.A. was organized while the first church building was still in the planning stage. Sister Frances, Mrs. Burd and Mrs. Lyle came out from Vancouver to help start the Women’s Auxiliary in Westminster Junction (Port Coquitlam). On February 23, 1909, the St. Catherine’s W.A. was organized with Frances Rose (Mrs. John) Smith as its first president.

The W.A. immediately set about raising money for the new church building. On December 16, 1909, they held a “sale of work” (bazaar) and concert. The needlework of Mrs. Van Norstrund and Emily (Mrs. George) Mouldey was especially popular. Similar events followed in December 1910 and December 1911. The proceeds of the 1911 bazaar and concert, $130, cleared the church of debt. In less than three years of fund-raising the W.A. had been able both to repay the $500 that Mr. Price had loaned for building the church and to purchase an organ.

The W.A. suffered a brief crisis following their 1911 financial triumph. There was to have been an election of officers following the retirement of Mrs. John Smith as president. According to the rules of the society, committee members had to be church members. As there were too few such members present, they decided to dissolve the W.A. However, if the dissolution actually occurred, it was brief. Within a few months the Diocesan Society was addressing the W.A. at a tea hosted by Mrs. William Smith. A large number of ladies were present. According to the Coquitlam Star “…the vicar expressed the belief that he had at last an auxiliary which would prove a power for good in the parish and who would therefore be a source of help and strength to him in the church’s work.”

In January 1913, the W.A. provided a Christmas tree in the Agricultural Hall for a large number of children. The children received presents “of a very superior kind” purchased with funds raised at a social held the previous December. The W.A. also presented Rev. Edge with a set of white Eucharist vestments for use at Holy Communion.

In April 1915, the W.A. began the longest-running program of the current ACW, the provision of bales of clothing to Northern Indian Missions. In the Coquitlam Star they announced that they “would be pleased to receive contributions, which can be sent to the vicarage.”

In 1966, the Women’s Auxiliary of the Church of England in Canada (as the national organization had been renamed in 1947) amalgamated with other women’s ministries such as Mother’s Union and Chancel Guild to become the Anglican Church Women. Thus, the St. Catherine’s W.A. became the ACW.

As the congregation of St. Catherine’s grew along with the population of Port Coquitlam in the 1960’s and 1970’s, the ACW expanded as well. By the mid-1970’s there were two branches of the ACW, an afternoon branch and an evening branch. The two branches continued until the mid-1980’s.

In the late 1970’s, the ACW undertook the task of the original Women’s Auxiliary – helping to repay the debt accrued for building a new church. Mrs. Eva Collins, president of the Afternoon Branch of the ACW, opened a Thrift Shop, which she ran with the assistance of her daughter, Eileen Feragen, for the express purpose of paying off the loan on the church. Between 1973 and the end of 1979 they contributed $6,749.14 toward repayment of the debt.

By 1987, the ACW was again operating as a single branch, but they continued to support the church and participate in other charitable activities. They sponsored a foster child. They sewed surplices and skirts for the junior choir. They collected stamps for use by the Fellowship of the Arctic, donated used eye glasses to Third World countries and provided work socks to the Mission for Seamen as Christmas gifts. In addition, the ACW provided catering for weddings, anniversaries and funerals.

By 1999, the ACW, like the parish of St. Catherine’s, was struggling. The congregation, and along with it the ACW membership, had shrunk. The loss of the church building on McAllister Avenue meant that the ACW had to pack their materials for storage at St. Lawrence in Coquitlam.

Nevertheless, the ACW continued to function with eleven active members. They held two bake sales in 1999 and were active in the Diocesan and national ACW. Pat Patterson of St. Catherine’s was installed as Diocesan ACW President that year and served three terms. In 2000, she also became a member of the ACW’s national executive.

In 2001, the ACW began a new enterprise, preparing and selling “Super Soup”. In addition to proving a profitable fund-raiser, the soup sales were an experiment into the logistics of making large batches of food. The success of the experiment led to the opening of the Soup Kitchen (Paul’s Place), St. Catherine’s signature outreach project of the 21st Century. Current ACW members work actively in Paul’s Place, although it is run by an independent parish committee. The ACW also provides “comfort bags” containing toiletries, mitts, toques and scarves to Soup Kitchen clients at Christmas or other times of the year.

The ACW celebrated its centenary in 2009 by holding a Heritage Fair. The event features old-fashioned activities that would have been used to raise funds in 1909. ACW members, dressed in heritage costumes, sold home-made pickles, preserves and baked goods. The fair featured bobbing for apples, a fishpond, cotton candy and an ice cream parlour. A barbershop trio, comprised of the rector Reverend Paul Strudwick, choir director Kevin Wong and warden Mark Hird-Rutter, provided entertainment.

As St. Catherine’s enters its second century, the ACW continues to be active in the Diocesan ACW and the Northern Bales Project. They collect baby layettes, clothing and household items to be included in the bales for northern communities. In 2008, an ACW knitting group met monthly, produced more than 35 “pneumonia vests” and delivered them to WA Memorial House. The ACW also supports a foster child in Haiti, caters church and community events and provides donations to support the parish.