Stitching St. Boniface History Together One Needle and Thread at a Time
by Maria Siebrecht
If you’ve had a child baptized at St. Boniface, he or she has been a lucky recipient of a personalized baptismal bib that comes from a long tradition of being hand-crafted by a talented group of volunteers. Mabel Loschen, Bobbie Meyer, and Lena Angaran started making bibs in the 1980s. Some bibs were made from purchased fabric, but often they were made from re purposed material like old pillow cases. Once the bibs were stitched together by Mable, Bobbie, or Lena, a handful of ladies from the parish would add the finishing touch by hand-embroidering a Celtic cross and lamb design on each bib. In 2002, Mary Jo Pucelik joined the crew, and brought the ability to machine-embroider the child’s name and date of baptism. Eventually, Mary Jo also digitized the cross and lamb design, which helped reduce the amount of hours spent on each bib. In addition to the bibs, in 2006, the group started making sashes for children who are baptized over the age of two, and also for the RCIA catechumens who are baptized on Easter vigil.
While the digitized embroidery helps speed up the project, a lot of time still goes into each bib to make a special gift for the child being baptized. When Pat Wilson (pictured above), a St. Boniface member since 2007, was asked to take over the bib-making ministry in 2011, she decided to give it a try. “I have always enjoyed sewing since I was a teenager. I like doing for others and I thought it was a wonderful tradition at St. Boniface and it would be a shame for it to die,” states Pat. She averages about 120 bibs each year, and that number keeps growing. Because the demand is so high, she keeps the supply in check by making about 25 bibs at a time. Between cutting the bibs from a bolt of muslin, adding the embroidery, stitching the lace trim, pinning, starching, pressing, and quite a few other steps, about two hours goes into making a single bib. Now that Pat’s been at it a few years, she adds, “I had no idea the amount of time involved in this ministry.”
And it’s not just bibs that are adding miles to parishioners’ sewing machines. Mary Jo Pucelik, who’s been a parishioner at St. Boniface since 2000, started making purificators for the church in 2006 when Fr. Vince asked her if she could repair a few that had become worn and frayed. The purificators—the cloths used during the distribution of communion wine—were too damaged to repair, but Mary Jo thought they would be an easy thing to make. On an as-needed basis, she makes them from a 10-yard bolt of Kona cotton, getting 60 purificators from each bolt. With help from Adeline Downey, she estimates that she has cut, pinned, pressed and stitched over 150 purificators since she started making them. When asked why she volunteers for this ministry, Mary Jo says, “I have a long history of sewing, everything from coats, men’s suits, children, quilts, home decor, just about anything that is a challenge. It’s easy sewing I can do for the church, and not a big time commitment.”