May 22, 2014

Catholic Women’s Club of Agawam marks 75th anniversary



Story and photos by Julie Beaulieu

AGAWAM – The Catholic Women’s Club of Agawam, founded on Oct. 26, 1938, celebrated its 75th anniversary on Monday, May 12, at the Crestview Country Club in Agawam.

Past and present members attended, including Adele Gallano, who served as president from 1965 to 1967.

“At the beginning, when I went in as president, Father Joyce came in as our pastor. Of course, it was wonderful because we were both new and both trying to do new things. The first thing he asked was if our women’s club would please put on a bazaar. So, I brought it to the board and they agreed that yes, we would try it,” recalled Gallano, now in her 90s.

“Another thing we started, which I liked and I wanted, was to have a silver tea,” she said. “And, I thought it would be appropriate to have a silver tea for our first meeting in September so that we could introduce our new tables.

“We used to have a special table for new members coming in. We did things so differently then, and I thought that they were just wonderful,” said Gallano.

Gallano also recalled having talent shows downstairs in the old St. John the Evangelist hall.

“I was just talking to Mary Collins, who is here with her husband, and she is in her nineties also. I remember we did a part where we wore old fashioned bathing suits and we would sing, ‘By the Sea.’”

Gallano still remains active with the club and recently participated in a bake sale. She now lives in Ludlow and was happy to return to Agawam for the event to keep in touch with old friends.

Marguerite Caldon (pictured at left) founded the club in October of 1938 to assist in the work of the new mission church in Agawam, to promote sociability among its members, and to further Catholic activities in Agawam. The first meeting was held at the home of Mrs. Thomas Stapleton, says current president Jackie Toussaint.

“A group of women got together and they wanted to hold some fundraisers and they decided to have card parties at one of the woman’s homes… There was no St. John’s Church at the time, so they met at the Congregational Church in Agawam,” said Toussaint. “Finally, they raised enough money to help with the building of the church (St. John the Evangelist) and we’ve continued to support it all through these years.”

“You know, this is a real blessing to have so many women involved in bringing the good spirit to the parish,” said Father Tomasz Parzynski, St. John the Evangelist parish administrator.  

“They are prayerful. They are joyful. It is a real blessing when they organize all of these events, and when they help other people,” Father Parzynski said. “They are a real example for other people on how to bring joy and how to bring Christ to the people.”

Paula Raiche, chairperson of the 75th anniversary committee, organized the event.

“What I did this year is I asked the past presidents (seen in photo) to be on my committee, because I feel that they are so special, and that the club means so much to them,” Raiche told iobserve. “We have 86 people here tonight, and it’s really great to see them all.”

Gallano commented that today many members are working moms, busy with their children’s afterschool activities, but that their spirits remain the same. There are currently 137 members, said Toussaint.

“We have fun. We do spiritual things,” Toussaint said. “In the fall, we always have a craft fair and tag sale. In December, we have our church bazaar, and we usually raise quite a bit of money, which is donated to the parish.

“We have a fashion show to benefit the homeless and the needy. We try to donate to local scholarships when we can,” she said. She also noted that the women’s club presents its own scholarships to children and grandchildren of its members.