By Anne Marie Amacher
The Catholic Messenger
DAVENPORT — After organizing a successful church linen workshop last fall at St. Mary Parish-Davenport, Kathryn Amato heard from people interested in attending her next workshop.
“I wanted to extend the opportunity to learn linen sewing to as many people in the diocese as possible. A number of people in the area either hadn’t heard about the first seminar or hadn’t been able to attend, and were happy to have another opportunity to learn from a knowledgeable instructor.”
This year’s workshop, held June 9-10 at St. Alphonsus Parish in Davenport, focused on linens and vestments used at Mass, as did last year’s workshop. Mary Hingst, mother of Father Paul Appel, and a member of St. Patrick Parish in Ottumwa, led this year’s workshop after attending last year’s event. People from the Quad-City area, Ottumwa, Washington and West Branch participated this year.
The workshop was open to participants with little to no sewing skills all the way up to those at the expert level. “There’s no reason an absolute beginner couldn’t attend a workshop like this one alongside others with more expertise. The basics are not at all difficult to learn, and I have found that people who love sewing are delighted to support and encourage newcomers,” Amato said.
One session was offered each day, mixing beginners with advanced students. “It really encouraged people from different parishes, and with different experiences and skill levels, to collaborate and get to know each other. One of the highlights of the workshop for me was seeing the participants developing a sense of unity and common purpose as time went on,” Amato said.
Last fall’s instructor, Elizabeth Morgan, had a favorable impression of Hingst’s competence and diligence. That inspired Amato to work with Hingst on another workshop. After last year’s workshop, Hingst took leftover linens and started to work on a new linen for her parish.
“I could see that she is a person who makes wise use of an opportunity, that she really appreciates the value of using fine linen, and that she is very enthusiastic to serve God and the people of her parish,” Amato said.
“It was clear to me that she would do an outstanding job carrying on Elizabeth’s apostolate of liturgical sewing and establishing it in our diocese…. As a result of working with Elizabeth at the fall seminar, Mary had been inspired to form a sewing group at her own parish with three of her friends, Belinda Anstey (Father Kevin Anstey’s mother), Mary Perry and Vicki Bono. I couldn’t have asked for a better-qualified person to teach the workshop this spring and I was honored that Mary (Hingst) accepted the offer.”
Hingst and her friends worked together in teaching the June workshop. On the first day, Hingst demonstrated how to straighten and cut a length of linen and how to construct and stitch a purificator. “She and the other members of her parish group provided hands-on instruction for each of the participants,” Amato said.
Taking a flexible approach, “we decided to continue with linen instruction on Saturday instead of trying to rush into vestment sewing as well,” Amato said. Later, the instructors shared their experiences with sewing vestments and showed examples of their work. Hingst displayed vestment fabric samples which she had on loan from Elizabeth Morgan.
“This led to a very lively discussion about the many ways in which a sewing group can serve the particular needs of a parish based on the needs and preferences of the pastor and of the parishioners, for instance by providing banners and other decorations. The participants also contributed their own experiences and ideas to the discussion and several people shared examples of their own work.”
“We came to the consensus that we were very interested in continuing to work together on the liturgical sewing project in the diocese, and that we would arrange another meeting in the fall at St. James Parish in Washington,” Amato said.
She envisions some changes in the approach to the workshops. “Rather than asking people from all over the diocese to travel to a particular location for a workshop, Mary has been thinking that it would make more sense if we visited individual parishes instead,” Amato said. That would “allow us to adapt each workshop to the individual character of each parish.”
Hingst also has reminded Amato that they need to be patient and let the workshop project evolve slowly. “This project is still very new and it will take some time before its direction becomes clear,” Amato said.