The Annual School Tea

The 2020 Annual School Tea was both opened and closed by Sr. Anne Pidskalny SSMI, the school’s longest serving Sister.


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.
That secondary benefit becomes noticeable when parent volunteers work cooperatively towards a common goal, and in the process create a sense of unity and fellowship within the IHMS community.


Some of the IHMS students and staff at the School Tea



          2020 Annual School Tea

  • When: Sunday, February 2, 2020 from 1:30 – 4:00 pm,
  • Where: Immaculate Heart of Mary School, 650 Flora Avenue
  • Theme:  “Steeped in Tradition”
  • Opener: Sisters Servants of Mary Immaculate



A few past and present staff members enjoying each other’s company at the Tea


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. In fact, most of the table servers at the Tea were either present or past students of the school.


Many of the visitors to the school were either past or present students of IHMS, and most of them volunteered to serve tea. Compared to previous years, more older alumni also showed up (probably to celebrate the final School Tea). The oldest alumni to attend the 2020 School Tea was a graduate of the class of 1940, which was 80 years ago (last two photos)!


This year, the Tea took place on Sunday, February 2, 2020 from 1:30 to 4:00 pm. It had been determined a few weeks earlier that the 2020 School Tea was to be the very last one in a long tradition of Annual School Teas. 
Unfortunately, attendance had been dropping over the years – 15 or 20 years ago the Tea was so busy that the organizers had to arrange 2 separate sittings in the Tea Room. In fact, the downstairs hallway was so crowded with visitors that it was almost impossible to move from room to room.
It seems that the concept of a Tea as a fund-raiser had started to feel dated and out of touch with modern ideas, so the IHMS School Board decided to move in a different direction with a new event scheduled to begin this fall. The new event will celebrate our Ukrainian Catholic heritage as well as our multicultural diversity. This sounds like a fantastic idea, and the information released so far sound very promising!


After being an important part of the school’s history for many decades, the tradition of the Annual School Tea finally came to an end on Sunday, February 2, 2020.



The theme for the school’s last Tea was:


The theme of the school’s final School Tea as it appeared on the gym wall


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.


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



Mr. Picklyk and Sr. Jean Zemliak, SSMI welcomed all visitors as they entered the Tea room. Sr. Jean Zemliak, SSMI is the current Director of IHMS, assuming the job upon Sr. Anne’s retirement two and a half ago. Sr. Jean is also a member of the IHMS school board.


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 “Steeped in Tradition


A few examples of the original artwork on placemats created by students from kindergarten to grade 8. In order to accommodate all the tables set up in the gym, each student created two placemats. Each student also decorated and coloured a paper “tea cup” which was part of the display on the gym wall (bottom two photos).


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 Father Isidore Dziadyk, OSBM.


Father Isidore Dziadyk, OSBM, 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 2020 School Tea); Sr. Jean Zemliak, SSMI (Member of the IHMS Board of Trustees and IHMS Director);  Mr. Arnold Dumlao (President of the IHMS Parent’s Guild); Mr. Jason Brennan (Chairperson of the IHMS Board of Trustees); Father Isidore Dziadyk, OSBM (IHMS School Chaplain); Mr. Rod Picklyk (Principal of IHMS and MC for the school Tea);  Mrs. Jennifer Wiwchar-Fast (parent volunteer and co-convenor of the 2020 School Tea).
Front row (l-r):  Mrs. Lesia Babel (parent volunteer and co-convenor of the 2020 School Tea);  Sr. Emily Schietzsch, SSMI (Kindergarten Educational Aide); Sr. Anne Pidskalny, SSMI  (Former IHMS staff member and 2029 Tea Opener and Closer); and Sr. Ruth Aney. SSMI (former Kindergarten Educational Aide and current organizer of the school’s “Children of Mary” program).
…….   Click here to view above photo in larger format


After welcoming everyone to the Tea, Mr. Picklyk introduced the school chaplain Father Isidore Dziadyk, OSBM who lead everyone in an opening prayer.


Mr. R. Picklyk, the principal of IHMS was Master of Ceremonies (top photo) and Father Isidore Dziadyk, OSBM said the opening prayer (bottom photo).


After the opening prayer, Mr. Picklyk introduced Mr. Jason Brennan, the Chairperson of the IHMS School Board. Mr. Brennan reminded everyone that this was the last Annual School Tea, and noted the need to move in a different direction. He wouldn’t give any details, but he did say that the school will be starting a new event this fall that will celebrate our Ukrainian Catholic heritage as well as our multicultural diversity.


Mr. Jason Brennan, the Chairperson of the IHMS School Board


Since this was the final School Tea, Mr. Picklyk spent a few minutes explaining the history of how it all began. As described in a passage written over 80 years ago, the concept of a school tea began in the late 1930s when the Sisters decided to host an “evening tea” as a fundraiser for the school.
This evening tea evolved over the years to become what it is today. Mr. Picklyk also listed some of the previous Tea Openers as well as some of the previous Tea themes.


Mr. Picklyk then 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 all the parents who donated homemade baked goods for the Tea, as well as the coordinators who worked in the Bake Room.


On Friday, every parent in the school brought in several types of homemade baking. Some of the baking was used in the Tea Room on Sunday, and the rest was sold in the Bake Room. This was a lot of work for the parents to do, and Mr. Dumlao thanked them for their effort. Mr. Dumlao is an exemplary parent and a genuinely nice person. The bottom photo shows him socializing shortly before the beginning of the Tea on Sunday.


Mr. Dumlao 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, Mr. Dumlao 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 introduced the main speaker of the Tea, Sr. Anne Pidskalny, SSMI.


Sr. Anne Pidskalny, SSMI

Sr. Anne is a former IHMS staff member who retired a few years ago and currently resides in Edmonton, Alberta. She is also a member of the group of Sisters who own and operate the school – the Sisters Servants of Mary Immaculate.
When Sr. Anne retired in 2017, she had worked a total of 37 years at IHMS, making her the longest serving Sister at the school. Therefore, when it was announced that this year’s Tea would be the school’s last, Sr. Anne was the obvious choice as the 2020 Annual School Tea Opener. As it turned out, Sr. Anne also participated in the symbolic event of permanently closing the Annual School Tea.


Sr. Anne began her speech by recounting some of the problems encountered by the Sisters during the early days of the school. For example, at one time (over a century ago), the school operated out of the basement of the old St. Nicholas church on the corner of Flora and MacGregor. After a torrential rainstorm flooded the entire basement, many of the parents decided to take their children back to their old schools.


Problems like this forced the Sisters to realize that they had to start fund-raising in order to keep the school running. Operating a school is very expensive – this was the case a century ago and it’s still the case now. The Sisters tried various methods to raise money, and finally discovered that a School Tea was one of their best fund-raisers. Teas were popular with many parishes at the time, and since hosting a Tea was always a great fund-raiser, they remained a tradition at the school for many decades. After 1980, all profits from the Tea were given directly to the principal, and they decided on the best way to use the money.


However, nothing lasts forever, and old traditions sometimes start to feel out of touch with modern ideas. The Annual School Tea has been a fantastic fund-raiser and community builder for IHMS for many years. But, the school board has recently decided that the 2020 Tea would be the final School Tea. It’ll be replaced with a different event, but as Sr. Anne pointed out, change is never easy.


Sr. Anne noted that, since 1905, a total of 82 Sisters have taught at St. Nicholas School, IHA, and IHMS. How does Sr. Anne know this? She went into the records and manually counted every single person.


Sr. Anne also listed the names of some of the deacons, priests, and bishops who have graduated from the school over the years. Sr. Anne concluded her speech by pointing out that a total of 82 Sisters have taught at St. Nicholas School, Immaculate Heart Academy, and Immaculate Heart of Mary School.


The Tea was officially opened after Sr. Anne 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.


 Sr. Anne officially opened the Tea by lighting the two centerpiece candles


After the two centerpiece candles were lit, the chairman of the Catholic foundation Manitoba, Mr. Nick Chubenko, announced that IHMS would be receiving a donation to purchase some electronic equipment – a projector and several iPad tablets.


Mr. Nick Chubenko, chairman of the Catholic foundation Manitoba


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.



Parent Volunteers – Sunday

A few of the more visible parent volunteers who kept the Tea running smoothly.



Parent Volunteers – Friday

The above photos show a few of the parent volunteers preparing food for the Tea on Friday afternoon. The bottom photo shows IHMS students folding tickets for the main raffle draw. These are the tickets that each family sold last fall, and they go into the large red drum for Sunday’s main raffle draw.



Anonymous Parent Volunteers – Sunday

A few of the less 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 bottom two photos had the difficult and unglamerous job of kitchen duty.


In the past, the Tea has been organized by one or more convenors. These parent volunteers work together as a team to organize and oversee every detail of the Tea. This year, the Tea was overseen by three very dedicated and talented IHMS parents:
…………   Melanie Arndt
  Lesia Bybel, and
Jennifer Wiwchar-Fast


The three convenor for the 2020 Annual School Tea (l-r): Mrs. Lesia Bybel, Mrs. Melanie Arndt, and Mrs. Jennifer Wiwchar-Fast. These are the same three convenors who organized last year’s Tea. The three convenors oversaw everything about the Tea, and had the last word on all important decisions regarding the Tea.


This year’s 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 specific areas of responsibility:

  • Main Raffle – Julie Sharma, Olga Fedus
  • Basket Raffle – Jenna Mendoza, Kelly Bik
  • Kitchen CoordinatorsLeizel Jacinto, Melanie Arndt
  • Reception Coordinator – Patricia Caetano
  • Bake Room CoordinatorsNataliya Demkowicz, Kseniya Kravtchouk, Olha Drogalchuk
  • Student Volunteer Coordinator – Donna Sikorsky



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”


Since this was IHMS’s final School Tea, the organizers decided to showcase information about previous Annual School Teas, going all the way back to the first Tea of the new school in 1963 (IHMS opened in 1963). This was an interesting and very timely idea, with great photos and interesting written summaries for the past 57 years. 
Unfortunately, despite the interesting topic, very few people actually visited the Display Room, and very few of those people actually spent time reading the information accompanying the photos. This has always been a problem with the Display Room. The Annual School Tea isn’t really a fast-paced affair, but it’s always busy, bustling, and buzzing with a positive, energetic vibe. There’s a lot to see and a lot of people to meet (such as old acquaintances), so its somewhat understandable that most visitors don’t spend much time in the Display Room. But for those visitors who did invest the time to read about the history of previous School Teas, it was well worth it!






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.


  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 2, 2020 were perfect!


On the afternoon of the School Tea, the weather was almost perfect! It was a bright, sunny day with mild temperatures near 0 degrees C, very unusual for the beginning of February in Winnipeg.



Tickets for the basket raffles and the main raffle were drawn just before the end of the Tea at 3:45 p.m.


When the Tea officially ended at 4:00 p.m., there was a short, symbolic ceremony to indicate the final closing of the Annual School Tea. After being a part of the school’s history for over 80 years, Sr. Anne Pidskalny SSMI and Sr. Jean Zemliak, SSMI extinguished the two centrepiece candles for the last time.


After being a part of the school’s history since the late 1930’s, the tradition of the Annual School Tea came to a symbolic end on February 2, 2020 at 4:00 p.m.
It’s completely understandable that some people might lament the loss of the Annual School Tea. It’s been a tradition at IHMS for many, many years. Both Sr. Anne and Mr. Dumlao mentioned in their speeches that change is never easy.
But the School Board has very exciting plans to introduce a new event to replace the Annual School Tea. It might not happen immediately, but in time, this replacement event will become the new tradition at IHMS!


After the final ceremony, 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.


By the end of the day, several hundred visitors passed through the school’s front doors, making the 2020 version of the Annual Tea, which was also final 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 114 years. Thanks to everyone involver in making this year’s Tea such a success. Your hard work and dedication is very much appreciated!


By the end of the day, hundreds of visitors passed through the doors of IHMS, making the 2020 Annual School Tea a huge success!