Primate’s wife will play new role ‘by ear’

Published June 1, 2004

When her husband, Andrew Hutchison, became bishop of Montreal in 1990, Lois Hutchison said he suggested she might want to resign as secretary to the executive officer of the diocesan synod office to prevent any talk of nepotism. She retorted: “I’ve been there longer than you, maybe you’d like to resign.” She added: “And don’t try to fire me because if you do, I’ll sue your socks off.” She was not joking when she said this and kept the job, which she will soon leave to accompany her husband to Toronto, where he will assume his new job as primate of the Anglican Church of Canada sometime in August. This anecdote has gone around, giving people the impression that Mrs. Hutchison is one feisty lady. The truth is, she said, “I’m really more introverted than he (Archbishop Hutchison) is. I’m all right in a one-on-one or in a very small group. But in a big group I am not as comfortable. I feel all closed in.” Married to Archbishop Hutchison for 44 years, Mrs. Hutchison said she was “a little stunned” when she heard that her husband had been elected primate. She, son David, his wife, Jillian and their baby daughter Jessica had been “wandering around” a mall near Brock University, where the long process of electing a primate was unfolding. “David phoned his dad because he wondered why he hadn’t heard anything and Andrew said, ‘Well, they’ve just called for more names.’ David looked sad and I said, ‘David, it doesn’t matter,'” she recalled. David, who was coincidentally with his family in St. Catharines for a rowing race, later received the good news from his father. “I heard ‘Yes!'” said Mrs. Hutchison, laughing. “Then I burst into tears.” The “weeping willow” is how Archbishop Hutchison affectionately describes his wife, who he met when they were both employees at the Arrow Shirt Company in Toronto. They were only 18; two years later they wed. During their engagement he told her he wanted to become a priest but she told him, “Listen, I don’t want to be a priest’s wife. So, it’s me or you going to school to become a priest.” He told her “it was a no-brainer” and married her.After two other sales-related jobs, however, she could see that his heart was still set on priesthood. “Eventually I said to him, ‘Do you still want to become a priest?’ And he said ‘yes.'” So she told him: “Well then get off your butt and go to school.”

“I’ve really enjoyed it,” she said of becoming a priest’s wife, then later a bishop’s wife. “We’ve been to fun places and we’ve had opportunities we never would have had if he hadn’t pursued this work.” Mrs. Hutchison was a stay-at-home mother for about 10 years, a job which she said was “the most important” one she ever had. She went back to work only when money started getting “tight” and they wanted to give more to their only child who was involved in sports.”I really have no idea,” she said when asked whether she thinks she has a role to play as a primate’s wife. “I think I’m going to have to play it by ear.”


  • Marites N. Sison

    Marites (Tess) Sison was editor of the Anglican Journal from August 2014 to July 2018, and senior staff writer from December 2003 to July 2014. An award-winning journalist, she has more that three decades of professional journalism experience in Canada and overseas. She has contributed to The Toronto Star and CBC Radio, and worked as a stringer for The New York Times.

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