Local Parishes

Parish gets creative with processional canopy

Denise Slaven, director of music and liturgy at Holy Spirit Parish in Overland Park, created this processional canopy for her parish. COURTESY PHOTO

by Marc and Julie Anderson

OVERLAND PARK  — “When your parish decides it needs a processional canopy for the solemnity of Corpus Christi on June 11, and the latest quote for one is $4,800, it’s time to get creative!”

That’s what Denise Slaven, director of music and liturgy at Holy Spirit Parish in Overland Park wrote online May 16.

“I remembered there was a piece of brocade cloth, and so Doug Leikam — who is our youth minister — and I went through the closets, trying to figure out what would work,” she said.

As Slaven considered the brocade, she took measurements, comparing them to pictures she’d seen of canopies in religious supply catalogs. To her surprise, they were almost identical.

“I was like, ‘That’s a sign from God,’” she said.

Next, she found a dove in a Catholic clip art book. It was small, just two inches. So, she kept enlarging it, ultimately reaching a size of 15 inches. On May 19, she showed it to parish facilities manager Shaw Leach who approved it.

Leach also suggested that she talk with his father, Dan Leach, another parishioner and a woodworker, about ways to fashion the canopy’s poles.

Upon learning of the project, Dan was excited to become a part of it.

“Denise was creating a beautiful canopy that would show our parishioners the honor and dignity we give to the Eucharist,” he said. “My role was to create some poles that would give silent strength and structure to the canopy that would protect Jesus in the monstrance.

“St. Joseph is my patron saint, so he is with me on all my projects. I could not help but reflect on the attributes that this eucharistic procession has in common with the Holy Family. The canopy, like Mary, imprinted with the image of the Holy Spirit covering Jesus with love and protection. The poles, like Joseph, providing strength and a framework to the family while remaining humble and quiet.”

While Dan worked on the poles, Slaven focused on the canopy, posting pictures of her progress online.

First, she traced the dove pattern on a piece of cotton cloth purchased from a convent that makes priestly vestments. Then, in late May and while riding in the car, she filled in the design using shadow embroidery, a technique in which thousands of stitches were created on the reverse side of the fabric.

After the shadow work, Slaven turned her attention to finishing the design. After much prayer, she shaped the cloth into a circle, using insertion lace. And by June 3, she was quilting — by hand —  the gold brocade with gold metallic thread.

Slaven spent two days in early June machine-quilting gold trim to the top, underlining and gold brocade.

The canopy is rich in symbolism, featuring representations of the Holy Spirit, the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit, the cross on which Jesus hung and the apostles, among many other symbolic elements.

All in all, Slaven said the project came together so beautifully that she knew it had to be inspired in some way.

“All I had was that picture in the catalog and the dimensions of it. We had to figure it out. I had nothing except the Holy Spirit’s guidance,” she said.

But perhaps it was Father Andrew Strobl’s simple response that somehow summarizes the parish’s new treasure when it was used for the first time.

“There was a real sense of reverence and gratitude using the canopy for the feast of Corpus Christi,” he said. “Knowing that it can be used for years to come was awesome!”

About the author

Marc & Julie Anderson

Freelancers Marc and Julie Anderson are long-time contributors to the Leaven. Married in 1996, for several years the high school sweethearts edited The Crown, the former newspaper of Christ the King Parish in Topeka which Julie has attended since its founding in 1977. In 2000, the Leaven offered the couple their first assignment. Since then, the Andersons’ work has also been featured in a variety of other Catholic and prolife media outlets. The couple has received numerous journalism awards from the Knights of Columbus, National Right to Life and the Catholic Press Association including three for their work on “Think It’s Not Happening Near You? Think Again,” a piece about human trafficking. A lifelong Catholic, Julie graduated from Most Pure Heart of Mary Grade School and Hayden Catholic High School in Topeka. Marc was received into the Catholic Church in 1993 at St. Paul Parish – Newman Center at Wichita State University. The two hold degrees from Washburn University in Topeka. Their only son, William James, was stillborn in 1997.

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