by Jill Ragar Esfeld
GARDNER — Divine Mercy parishioner Virginia Mackey was in a quandary; the last thing she wanted to do was ruin a priest’s vestment. But that was the possibility she faced as she helped her daughter, Karen Holland, sew a vestment for her pastor, Father Larry Albertson of Queen of the Holy Rosary Parish in Wea.
“We got to the point where it was kind of complicated,” said Mackey. “And I didn’t know how to help her.”
It was a critical issue. After all, this particular sewing project would be on display in front of a great many people.
“What should I do?” Holland asked her mother.
Mackey thought for a moment, and then came up with the perfect solution.
“I know these ladies over in Gardner,” she said.
Skills to share
The “ladies” Mackey referred to are members of Saint Anne’s Quilt Group — but don’t let the name fool you. They do much more than quilting. As a matter of fact, if you walk into the Divine Mercy Parish center on any Wednesday, you will be overwhelmed by the whirlwind of activity there.
The sound of laughter and female chatter makes the constant drone of sewing machines barely audible as these talented women work on a variety of projects — from quilts to baptismal clothes to pillows to pillow-case dresses.
If you have any sewing, knitting, crocheting, embroidery or crafting problem, there’s a good chance someone in the group can solve it.
And if you have a personal problem, they can probably solve that, too.
“I’m not a member of the group,” said Holland. “My mom just brought me over and they all accepted me — and the challenge, too.”
Holland has been visiting the quilting group for help with Father Albertson’s vestments ever since.
Her mother, who has belonged to the group for several years, gets emotional when she talks about how much she values the fellowship she finds there.
“I don’t know what I’d do without it,” she said. “It gives me family. And they have so much talent that they share with everyone.”
“I think it keeps her young,” her daughter agreed.
The reasons members belong to the group are as varied at the projects they do.
A seasoned quilter, Barbara Lawrence joined to make quilts for her kids and grandkids.
Ascension parishioner Mary Greve joined for the social interaction . . . and has learned how to quilt along the way.
Shirley Kissell started the group seven years ago.
“There were several of us that started,” she said. “We still have some core members and several new members.”
The group is always open to new members.
“You don’t have to know how to quilt,” said Greve. “You just have to have the desire to do it.”
“It’s very, very friendly,” added Betty Scherer. “Congeniality and fellowship — we come and visit and talk and share and help each other.”
And nobody expects perfection. As a testament to that, member Jocita Palmer, who doesn’t always finish projects, wrote her personal slogan on the group’s ironing board.
“To quilt is human,” it says. “To finish is divine!”
Father Joseph Cramer has been the pastor of Divine Mercy since the group began and is one of its biggest supporters.
“Father Joe is very kind,” said Kissell. “He loved the idea of women getting together and socializing.”
The group always meets during the day on Wednesday but tries to vary the agenda from week to week. For instance, the first Wednesday is usually a demonstration or learning project often led by professional quilting teacher and member Marge Meyer.
Another Wednesday is reserved for a monthly meeting.
“We set goals for the year — what we want to accomplish,” said Kissell.
Sometimes, the group goes on the road to find inspiration.
“We go on road trips and we have a blast,” said Joyce Schranz. “These ladies are great.”
No matter what the plan, each meeting begins and ends with prayer.
“It’s in the giving that you get the joy,” said Kissell. “I think God has blessed us because I think the group has increased everybody’s faith here.
“This group is called to share.”
Called to give
Members not only share knowledge with one another and the process of crafting the items together — they share almost everything they make.
Divine Mercy baptismal clothes are embroidered by one member, serged by another and edged with lace by a third; then they’re blessed and given to families.
A favorite project among all the members is their prayer quilts given to people who are suffering a hardship.
Each quilt has a pocket that contains a prayer card personally signed by all the members.
Barbara Keiter works on the prayer quilts, knowing well how much they will mean to recipients. She received one a year ago after suffering a heart attack.
“I know what it did for me when I realized all the people who signed that card were praying for me,” she said. “It’s very comforting.
“Every time I put it on, I feel like the Holy Spirit is there hugging me.”
In conjunction with Church of the Ascension Parish in Overland Park, the group makes pillow-case dresses to be sent to children in Haiti.
And, of course, the group’s contributions to Divine Mercy’s annual Octoberfest are certain to help with fundraising.
With fabric left over from projects or not usable for quilts, the group makes pillows for local intensive-care-unit patients.
Kissell has a nurse friend who requested the pillows.
“If she can give someone a pillow to prop up their leg or put behind their neck, it helps them not need so much pain medication,” she explained.
Members are constantly working on personal projects, too — and any challenge encountered is bound to be resolved by someone.
And then, of course, there are Father Albertson’s vestments.
“I love to see Father celebrating Mass,” said Holland. “I feel like I’m part of it.
“So when he comes to me wanting a vestment redone, I don’t say no — even if it’s difficult or I think I can’t do it.
“I say I will.
“And then I come to the quilt group at Divine Mercy.”
Saint Anne’s Quilt Group
The Quilt Group meets every Wednesday at 10 a.m. New members are always welcome. You don’t have to be a member of Divine Mercy to join. A desire to learn is the only requirement.
The group also welcomes donations of fabric and quilting supplies.
For more information, contact Shirley Kissell (913) 856-8675.