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    The 2019 Tea Opener – Mr. Robert Praznik, Superintendent of Manitoba Catholic Schools    


The Annual School Tea, which traditionally takes place on the first Sunday in February, is by far the largest event on the school’s annual calendar. The Tea is primarily a fund raising event, but because its success depends entirely on the volunteer work of IHMS families, it has a secondary benefit as well – it brings parents together to work cooperatively towards a common goal, and in the process creates a sense of unity and fellowship within the IHMS community.


Some of the students and IHMS staff  at the School Tea


          2019 Annual School Tea

  • When: Sunday, February 3, 2019 from 1:30 – 4:00 pm,
  • Where: Immaculate Heart of Mary School, 650 Flora Avenue
  • Theme:  “Celebrating Catholic Education”
  • Opener: Mr. Robert Praznik, Superintendent of Manitoba Catholic Schools



The Tea room as it appeared shortly before the 1:30 p.m. opening


The Annual School Tea also attracts a wide range of visitors beyond the families currently attending IHMS. Since the Tea is open to everyone, it’s a great way for former students to revisit the school to meet old friends and acquaintances. If fact, most of the table servers at the Tea were either present or past students of the school.


Many of the visitors to the Tea were either past or present students of IHMS, and most of them volunteered to serve tea


This year, the Tea took place on Sunday, February 3, 2019 from 1:30 to 4:00 pm. The theme was:


The theme of the Tea expressed in English letters taped to the gym wall



Mr. Picklyk and Sr. Jean Zemliak, SSMI welcomed all visitors as they entered the Tea room. Unfortunately, Mr. Picklyk temporarily moved out of camera range when the above photos were taken, so Sr. Jean is shown alone.
It should be noted that Sr. Jean Zemliak, SSMI is the current Director of IHMS, assuming the job upon Sr. Anne’s retirement a year and a half ago. Sr. Jean is also a member of the IHMS school board.


Although the Tea officially began at 1:30 p.m., a lot of people arrived well in advance, sometimes directly after attending Sunday Liturgy services, in order to get a good seat in the gym for the opening speeches. People also came early to view the displays in the Exhibit Room, to enter tickets for the Basket Raffle, and to visit the Bake Room before it was sold out. Parent volunteers seen throughout the school (and many more working anonymously behind the scenes) kept things running smoothly to accommodate all the visitors to the Tea.


An example of the poster used to advertise the Annual School Tea


It’s been a custom for years for the school to showcase examples of student artwork on the theme of the Annual School Tea. This artwork is displayed on hundreds of placemats arranged on the tables throughout the gym. Every student in the school created at least 2 colourful placemats based on the topic “Celebrating Catholic Education”


A few examples of the original artwork on placemats created by students from kindergarten to grade 7. In order to accommodate all the tables set up in the gym, each student created two placemats.


The Tea began at 1:30 p.m. with a call for attention by Mr. R. Picklyk, the principal of IHMS and Master of Ceremonies for the event. Mr. Picklyk asked everyone in attendance to stand and welcome a group of dignitaries that entered the gym and processed to the two main tables at the front. The procession was lead by Sr. Ruth Aney, SSMI.


Sr. Ruth Aney, SSMI, led a group of dignitaries and speakers to the head table at the front of the gym at 1:30 p.m. Mr. Rod Picklyk, the school’s principal and Master of Ceremonies for the event, was already standing at the podium and welcomed them to their seats.


Some of the dignitaries involved with the School Tea:

Back row (l-r): Mrs. Melanie Arndt (parent volunteer and co-convenor of the 2019 School Tea);  Mrs. Lesia Babel (parent volunteer and co-convenor of the 2019 School Tea);  Mrs. Jennifer Wiwchar-Fast (parent volunteer and co-convenor of the 2019 School Tea);  Most Reverend Lawrence Huculak OSBM (Metropolitan of Ukrainian Catholics in Canada);  Mr. Robert Praznik (Superintendent of Manitoba Catholic Schools and 2019 Tea Opener); Mr. Jason Brennan (Chairperson of the IHMS Board of Trustees); Mr. Arnold Dumlao (President of the IHMS Parent’s Guild); Mr. Rod Picklyk (Principal of IHMS and MC for the school Tea).

Front row and seated (l-r): Sr. Emily Schietzsch, SSMI (Kindergarten Educational Aide); Sr. Jean Zemliak, SSMI (Member of the IHMS Board of Trustees and IHMS Director); and Sr. Ruth Aney. SSMI (former Kindergarten Educational Aide and current organizer of the school’s “Children of Mary” program).


After welcoming everyone to the Tea, Mr. Picklyk introduced Most Reverend Lawrence Huculak, OSBM, Metropolitan of Ukrainian Catholics in Canada who lead everyone in an opening prayer.


Mr. R. Picklyk, the principal of IHMS was Master of Ceremonies (top photo) and Most Reverend Lawrence Huculak, OSBM, Metropolitan of Ukrainian Catholics in Canada said the opening prayer (bottom photo).


After the opening prayer, Mr. Picklyk introduced Mr. Arnold Dumlao, president of the IHMS Parent’s Guild. Mr. Dumlao began his speech by thanking the three convenors for organizing the Tea. He also thanked the parents who donated items for the basket raffle, as well as the coordinators who spent several days assembling the various baskets (the basket raffle and the main raffle are important fundraisers for the school). Finally, he thanked all the parents who volunteered their valuable time to make the Tea possible. 


 Mr. Arnold Dumlao, president of the IHMS Parent’s Guild


Mr. Picklyk then spoke briefly about IHMS, which has been in operation for over 113 years, and is owned and operated by the Sisters Servants of Mary Immaculate. At the present time, there are still three sisters affiliated with the school: Sr. Emily Schietzsch, SSMI, the school’s Kindergarten Educational Aide; Sr. Ruth Aney. SSMI, the current organizer of the school’s “Children of Mary” program; and Sr. Jean Zemliak, SSMI, the school’s Director and a member of the Board of Trustees.


Finally, Mr. Picklyk introduced the main speaker of the Tea, Mr. Robert Praznik, Superintendent of Manitoba Catholic Schools.


 Mr. Picklyk introducing the main speaker of the Tea, Mr. Robert Praznik


Mr. Praznik began his speech by pointing out the important choice that parents make by sending their children to a Catholic school. This choice, which was the theme of his speech, accounts for the thousands of bingos, raffles, and other fund raisers that have kept Catholic schools open over the years.


Mr. Praznik also gave a brief and very interesting history of Catholic school education in Manitoba. The first Catholic school was opened by a religious order called the Grey Nuns, and this happened before Manitoba was even officially recognized as a province! Most schools were (and presumably still are) operated either by a religious order or by a parish. By 1890, Catholics made up less than 30% of the population, and there was a very strong Protestant influence in the province. This led to discrimination against both Catholics and the French, and most public schools remained Protestant until the 1920’s.


Manitoba Catholic Schools

Mr. Praznik mentioned a few interesting facts about Manitoba Catholic schools:

  • There are 19 Catholic schools in Manitoba – 18 in Winnipeg and 1 in Brandon.
  • Four of these schools are high schools (St. Mary’s Academy, St. Paul’s High School, St. Maurice School, and St. Boniface Diocesan High School).
  • There are approximately 5500 students currently enrolled in Catholic schools in Manitoba.
  • The oldest school is St. Mary’s Academy (which will be celebrating its 150th anniversary on May 1, 2019) and the newest school is Gonzaga Middle School (which is only 3 years old),

 For more information on Manitoba Catholic schools, click the link below


Mr. Praznik concluded by reiterating the important choice that parents make by sending their children to a Catholic school. It’s not always an easy choice to make because it requires additional commitment and effort by the parents. But as the world becomes more and more secular, a Catholic school education is a necessary decision for parents with a desire to pass on their faith to the next generation.


The Tea was officially opened after Mr. Praznik lit the two centerpiece candles. Of course, the Tea had already been in progress during the speeches. However, the ceremonial lighting of the candles is a symbolic gesture, and it signals the servers to begin begin serving the Tea.


Mr. Praznik officially opened the Tea by lighting the two centerpiece candles


The Annual School Tea is such a huge event that it can only happen through the hard work and dedication of a lot of people. Although everyone involved with the school played an important role in the Tea’s success (including teachers and students), the majority of the work was done by parent volunteers. A lot of these parents dedicated most of their weekend preparing for the event, while others worked tirelessly with the cleanup and reorganization of the downstairs classrooms after the event. A large group of parents also kept everything running smoothly by working anonymously behind the scenes during the Tea.


A few of the more visible parent volunteers who kept the Tea running smoothly. Dozens of other parents worked anonymously behind the scenes preparing sandwiches the day before, making the tea, setting up the tables and place settings, taking the tables down and cleaning up afterwards, and many, many other jobs.
The parent volunteers in the above photos (from top to bottom): the Kitchen volunteers, the Reception volunteers, the Bake Room volunteers, the Student Coordinator volunteer, the Main Raffle volunteers, the Basket Raffle volunteers, and Mr. D. Nowosad in his front end loader, who cleared snow from the playground for visitor parking.


In the past, the Tea has been organized by not one, but two convenors. These two parent volunteers worked together as a team to organize and oversee every detail of the Tea. This year, the Tea is being overseen three very dedicated and talented IHMS parents volunteers:

  • Melanie Arndt
  • Lesia Bybel, and
  • Jennifer Wiwchar-Fast


The three convenors for the 2019 Annual School Tea (l-r): Mrs. Jennifer Wiwchar-Fast, Mrs. Melanie Arndt, and Mrs. Lesia Babel.


Mrs. Donna Sikorsky, who has worked as a co-convenor for the past 6 years, has graciously agreed to act as a consultant to the three new convenors.

These three convenors spent countless hours co-ordinating the dozens of volunteers necessary to run the event. The results of the Tea speak for themselves because the convenors obviously did a spectacular job!


A few examples of the beautiful table settings at the Tea


Some of the volunteer co-ordinators and their areas of responsibility:

  • Main Raffle – Donna Nowosad and Penny Spewak
  • Basket Raffle – Kelly Bik and Jenna Mendoza
  • Kitchen Coordinators – Melanie Arndt and Liezel Jacinto
  • Reception Coordinator – Patricia Caetano
  • Server Coordinator – Leanne Olafson
  • Bake Room Coordinator – Nataliya Demkowicz
  • Student Volunteer Coordinator – Halyna Shpak-Ivaniv


The three convenors oversaw everything about the Tea. and had the last word on all important decisions regarding the Tea


During the Tea, each of the K-3 classrooms on the first floor of the school were used for a special purpose.


The grade 3 classroom was the “Bake Room”


The Bake Room has always been one of the more popular attractions at the Tea because everyone likes baked goods. Pastries, pies, and other goodies that were generously donated by the families at IHMS were sold here. Every family contributed 3-4 items for the Tea, and while some were used in the Tea room, the rest were sold in the Bake Room. With well over 100 families in the school, there was an incredible selection to choose from!




The grade 2 classroom was the “Display Room”




The grade 1 classroom was the “Basket Raffle Room”


There are actually 2 separate raffles at the School Tea – the major Tea Raffle (with three Grand Prizes) and the Basket Raffle.

The Tea Raffle is one of the most important fund-raising components of the Tea. Tickets for the Raffle are printed and distributed to every family in the school to sell. In December, every family is given 2 booklets of tickets to sell. Most families end up purchasing the two booklets of tickets themselves.


The above photo shows the prizes for the main raffle or “Tea Raffle”. Tickets for this raffle come from the Tea Raffle tickets that each family sold in December. Additional tickets for the main raffle can also be purchased in the “Basket Raffle” room ($5.00 each or three for $10.00).

  In the “Basket Raffle”, families donate items that are wrapped, itemized, and then raffled off. Tickets were:

  • 1 sheet of 25 tickets for $15
  • 3 sheets (75 tickets) and 3 Grand Prize Ballots for $40.00
  • Grand prize ballots were $5.00 each or $10.00 for 3




The Kindergarten classroom was the “Cloak Room”



Since the School Tea takes place during the coldest time of the year in Winnipeg, weather is always an important factor for visitor turnout. The weather conditions on the afternoon of Sunday, February 3, 2019 was very cold, overcast, and dreary – probably not the best weather to encourage people to attend the School Tea.



Enlarged view:

On the afternoon of the School Tea, the temperature was -22 C and the windchill was -31 C, typical weather conditions for the beginning of February in Winnipeg. But it was also cloudy, snowy, and very dreary.


When the Tea officially ended at 4:00 p.m., a group of very dedicated parent volunteers performed the tedious and unglamorous task of cleanup. After everyone else went back home to enjoy the last few hours of their weekend, these parents remained at the school on a cold Sunday evening in February to finish the cleanup for the Tea.
And there was still a lot of work to be done – all the food had to be collected and packaged, table settings had to be washed and packed away, tables had to be disassembled and put into storage, and so on.



Since many of the dignitaries who attended the Tea were scheduled to speak, they had reserved seating at the two round tables next to the podium.


By the end of the day, several hundred visitors passed through the school’s front doors, making the 2019 version of the Annual Tea a complete success. The hard work of everyone involved in the undertaking of an event this large is a testament to the strong community spirit and sense of volunteerism that has held Immaculate Heart of Mary School together for over 113 years. Thanks to everyone involver in making this year’s Tea such a success. Your hard work and dedication os very much appreciated!


By the end of the day, hundreds of visitors passed through the doors of IHMS, making the 2019 Annual School Tea a huge success!




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