More than 150 women shared a five-course formal spring tea at St. Anthony’s Catholic Church in Superior May 18. Many women accepted the organizers’ invitation to wear tea-style hats; a majority were attending for the first time. (Catholic Herald photo by Jenny Snarski)

Jenny Snarski
Catholic Herald Staff

Three years ago, the committee behind St. Anthony’s spring salad bar luncheon transitioned the event to a formal tea luncheon.

On May 18, more than 150 women and girls of all ages were treated to five courses of intricately prepared menu items at the Superior church.

When co-chairperson Jane Moe asked for a show of hands of first-time attendees, she gasped, as did the crowd. Almost three-quarters of the guests raised their hands.

Moe noted that even with many of the regulars out of town, this was the largest crowd yet. There were at least 30 more guests than the 2018 tea, most local to the Twin Ports.

The idea originated with Moe’s sister, Karen Helenius. She had been collecting tea cups with the dream of hosting a formal tea someday. Moe even hosted a tea party-themed bridal shower for one of her daughters.

When the spring fundraiser committee, chaired by the two sisters and friend Brenda Wiisanen, wanted to try a new idea, a formal tea was chosen.

“We wanted to offer an elevated event to the mix of our annual events, such as the meatball dinner and Lenten fish fry,” Moe said.

Despite the blustery, rainy day, guests were greeted with warm smiles and cheerful decorations. Each table had lace tablecloths, gold charger plates with a mixed assortment of china place settings, tea cups and saucers. Colorful tea pots and costume jewelry served as centerpieces.

The showpiece of the church’s basement hall was a table full of elaborate single-serve desserts. A majority of guests wore hats of all styles — woven sunhats, floral decorated hats and English-style fascinators.

Moe introduced the full menu by their “fancy tea names” and welcomed Fr. David Neuschwander to give a blessing. He acknowledged that “lots of effort, lots of time and lots of love” had been invested in the preparations.

A team of young adult servers attended each table, course by course. Door prizes were given and women were invited to purchase tickets for a cash raffle as well as bucket raffle items. One “best hat” nominee was selected by each table. The organizing committee then consulted and chose the winner, an antique felt and floral hat from the 1930s. Her prize was a professionally decorated layered cake.

Fluid teamwork was evident throughout the event, a consequence of two factors.
First, the St. Anthony’s Spirit Seekers music ministry was a large force behind the event and have worked together for many years. Second, most of the organizers and volunteers for the event were related.

The tea is “very much a family affair,” Moe admitted. “Pretty much everyone working was related to someone on the planning committee; others donated raffle items.”

Moe is the youngest of eight siblings, most still local to the Superior area. Their father, 97, lives with another sister in town, who also took care of their mother until she died a year ago. The couple was close to celebrating their 70th wedding anniversary.

Moe and Helenius are both lifelong members of St. Anthony.

The three organizers are pleased with the attendance and feedback received from the tea. They are already discussing what changes to make for next year’s tea.

“I must admit that we’ve gotten a little carried away with trying to make the event special, but people have raved about it the past two years, and I think we all enjoy the details that go into making it a unique experience,” Moe shared.