The Quilting Projectby Sr. Carolyn Stoe, S.S.N.D.
Sr. Carol Datz, S.S.N.D., was a pastoral minister at St. Patrick’s Parish in the town of Victor, New York in the early 90’s. One of the duties that fell to her was a request to guide a group of adults seeking greater spirituality. This was a familiar scenario after Vatican II as larger numbers of educated Catholics of all ages sought to build upon the faith of their youth to deal with a multitude of contemporary questions not found in the long-revered Third Edition of the Baltimore Catechism.
Since the inquiring parishioners were women, and since few women are mentioned in the Sunday lectionary, Sr. Carol suggested building the sessions around this particular aspect of scripture. The women enthusiastically embraced the idea.
For a trusty guide in this project, Sr. Carol turned to a source entitled Quilt Patterns: Women of the Bible. The women included were Eve, Miriam, Sarah, Deborah, Ruth, Esther, Mary, Elizabeth, Mary and Martha, Lydia, Dorcas, and Priscilla. This popular book by Suzanne Schaffhausen and Judy Rehemel is no longer available from Augsburg Fortress Press. However, a diligent book enthusiast may locate a copy still available in cyber world, the new universe where nothing seems to go away forever!
Sr. Carol packaged material with directions from the authors’ designed symbolic patterns associated with some scriptural details in each woman’s story. Session after session, a member of the group would prepare the stitched symbol of the woman studied at that meeting. As they stitched each new piece to the growing banners, the whole group became “stitched together” in a lasting friendship.
Sr. Carol used her native talent in quilting and creative prayer experiences with approximately twenty-five women who gathered in morning or evening groups. In each session, she would offer important background information on one of the twelve biblical women chosen for the project. As the weeks passed, the women grew in faith by their reflection on the stories of these biblical women. Through conversation, they shared how these stories related to their present lives. They learned that sharing faith with others forms a deeper faith. Faith stories from the past have something important to say to the way we live today.
After months of study and stitching, the banners were complete, but the party was just beginning. The quilters along with other parishioners joined together to celebrate on a Sunday afternoon in St. Patrick’s parish center. Following a meaningful concluding presentation by a guest speaker, everyone shared in Jewish biblical refreshments in order to remember these great women of the Bible fittingly.
This group of parishioners learned how the church today is fed through the biblical stories from the past. The sharing of God’s Word in this way fostered more interest in both the Old and New Testaments, as it built trust and a spirit of community among the participants. This project also inspired the group to continue on and seek more knowledge about saintly women of the church from biblical times to our own day.Sr. Carolyn Stoe, S.S.N.D. ministers as Director of Religious Education at Our Lady of Peace Parish in Stratford, CT.