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The Cathedral’s St. Catherine’s Anglican Church Women Groupst. catherine

The St. Catherine’s Group at the Cathedral was not always known by this name. Indeed, its first moniker was The Young Women’s Group. Begun in the 1985/86 year when Dean Austin Munroe was at the Cathedral, and our current Primate, Archbishop Fred, was Priest Assistant, it was agreed that a women’s group to encompass a younger age range would be a good addition to the congregational life of the Cathedral. The idea for such a group grew out of the Mothers ‘n’ Tots Group that met monthly in the morning. Verna Munroe collaborated with a number of young women to ensure a warm welcome to all on the congregational list who fit the description of “young women”! The turn-out at the initial meeting was gratifying and lots of interesting and healthy discussion took place. Clearly, these women agreed that forming a Young Women’s Group would be a value added component to the life of the Cathedral.

As the group has evolved over close to 25 years, its mandate, too, has also been reshaped, with an emphasis on hospitality, education, service, and outreach. The St. Catherine’s Group welcomes women of all ages and stages to this ministry. It is a group that  coordinates a lot of the hospitality at the Cathedral, offers educational opportunities at many of its monthly meetings (usually the 4th Wednesday of the month, September to May, 7 pm, usually at the Cathedral), provides a much appreciated service of hand delivered Easter Baskets to the Cathedral “shut-ins” during Holy Week, and supports a number of outreach projects, especially during the Advent season. The leadership for key fundraising initiatives at the Cathedral often comes from the St. Catherine’s Group.

It was during the time that Rev. Dawn Davis was with us as Priest Assistant that a name change was encouraged. Unfortunately, the Young Women’s Group had not discovered the Fountain of Youth! Consequently, a title that avoided temporal implications and that drew on the rich heritage of female saints was suggested. Drawing inspiration from windows in the nave of the Cathedral, St. Catherine of Alexandria was chosen.

Saint Catherine of Alexandria, also known as Saint Catherine of the Wheel and The Great Martyr, was a noted scholar in the early 4th century. The Orthodox Churches venerate her as a ‘‘great martyr” and she is the patron saint for the Greek Orthodox counterpart of Anglican Church Women. In addition to the Orthodox and Catholic communions, Catherine is venerated in the Anglican Comunion and is featured in a nave window of our Cathedral with her traditonal symbol of the wheel. Her feast day is celebrated on November 25th by most Christian churches.

The most popular legend regarding St. Catherine, reputed to be the daughter of Costus, governor of Alexandria, is her alleged announcement to her parents that she would only marry someone who surpassed her in everything, such that "His beauty was more radiant than the shining of the sun, His wisdom governed all creation, His riches were spread throughout all the world." With this description, Catherine was seeing herself as the bride of Christ, as it was only he who fit the requirements! Catherine remained a virtuous woman, unmarried, and continues to be venerated both for her chasity and her erudition.

While many of the stories of St. Catherine have limited historical basis, it is believed that she succeeded in converting to Christianity the wife of the Roman Emperor Maximus, but was not succesful with the Emperor himself. Rather, he ordered her to be put in prison, and, when the pagan wise men who visited her converted, she was condemned to death on the breaking wheel, an instrument of torture. According to legend, the wheel itself broke when she touched it, so she was martyred, instead, by beheading. St. Catherine’s principal symbol, therefore, is the spiked wheel, which has become known as the St. Catherine’s Wheel.

The St. Catherine’s Anglican Church Women Group at the Cathedral Church of All Saints, Halifax, is proud to have such a virtuous and learned woman for its patron saint.

For more information about St. Catherine of Alexandria click on the link.


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As a Cathedral community, we acknowledge that we are in Mi’kma’ki, the ancestral
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