This year the Union of Catholic Mothers from St Catherine’s parish, Sheffield celebrates its 75th anniversary. As part of the celebrations of this special event Past President, Winifred Robinson looks back over the last seventy five years of its history
Prior to the formation of the Union of Catholic Mothers in the parish, the ladies of the parish were very much involved in parish life. On Monday afternoons they organised sewing meetings in the upper room of the Catholic Young Men’s Society Club in Montfort Street. They ran an annual Sale of Work in the old parish hall in Andover Street. At Christmas they provided and served refreshments for the school children of the Infants School. Each Whit Monday afternoon they provided and served refreshments to all of the children in the school. On the First Holy Communion day they served breakfast to the First Communicants.
During the Second World War
It was shortly after the foundation of the Union of Catholic Mothers in 1939 that war broke out, and this completely disrupted parish life. Many husbands went to serve in the armed forces. Many of the young men and women of the parish did likewise, whilst others went into war work. Later on in the war older women, wives and mothers, also took on war work. Because of the blackout and the threat of air raids, it was very difficult to hold meetings.
Several of the older members of the newly formed UCM undertook voluntary work each week in the services’ canteen which was on the north end of No 1 platform of the Sheffield Midland railway station. This canteen, which was open 24 hours per day, served beverages and refreshments to the many thousands of service personnel who passed through the station, going on leave, returning from leave, or in transit. Again, members of the parish UCM did similar voluntary work in the Catholic Women’s League services’ canteen which was in Wilkinson Street.
St Catherine’s Foundation goes from strength to strength
It was not until after the end of the 1939-45 war that the parish UCM was able to get back into its stride. From then on the UCM undertook and ran most of the parish activities. Each year they ran an Easter bonnet parade and dance, Summer Garden Party and a Christmas Fayre. They cleaned the church. Each week in conjunction with the Children of Mary they ran a whist drive. They manned the church repository, and whenever the priests of the deanery met, it was the UCM who provided and served the refreshments. When the new church hall was built in 1963 it was the UCM who bought all the crockery and cutlery. They ran a regular Saturday night dance, and made and fixed the curtains for the windows. In 1968 the Duke of Norfolk’s estates offered to the parish the freehold of the land on which the hall was built. Unfortunately, parish funds were stretched. The parish had recently built a new school and could not find the £400 necessary to buy the freehold. The parish UCM stepped in and bought it. When the hall was sold in 2007 the value of the land had increased in value to over £100,000 which made an extensive contribution to the reduction of the debt which the parish was then facing through the refurbishment and redecoration of the church.
The work of the Members of the UCM continues. They are still involved with the weekly tote which was started in 1972. One of their most recent activities was the buying and the fitting of the lace curtains to the windows of the presbytery.