Planting and Faith


Then God said, “I give you every seed-bearing plant on the face of the whole earth and every tree that has fruit with seed in it. They will be yours for food. And to all the beasts of the earth and all the birds in the sky and all the creatures that move along the ground—everything that has the breath of life in it—I give every green plant for food.” And it was so. –Genesis 1:29-30

Spring brings with it such excitement. At Mass last Sunday we had Baccalaureate. The faces of the students (and their parents), filled with excitement and maybe, just maybe, a little anxiety. Being from a rural area, it also brings planting. As I drove to work each day this week, I noticed the progress in planting and, in some fields, sprouts coming through the rows. Farming, to me, is an occupation which requires incredible faith. Incredible amounts of time and energy are put into preparing the field, sowing them, then fertilizing. After that, it is really about prayer and faith. Farmers can’t bring rain, or necessary sun, or protection from storms. It is really all about taking a chance. There are no guarantees. Yet, each spring we believe. For this reason, I view it truly as a vocation rather than an occupation. There is a relationship between farmers and their land, between farmers and their livestock. It is an investment in God’s creations. I say this first-hand, having been raised on a dairy farm. I certainly don’t feel that same way about my keyboard.

As I saw those high school seniors at Mass, I thought about their parents. For some, it was their first child graduating, for others it was their last. Parenting is the other vocation I believe requires incredible faith. The parents planted the seeds, but as the students described, one by one, their future plans to the congregation while standing on the altar steps, the future now rests largely on trust and belief that there will be necessary sun and protection from storms. I saw in their faces that the parents are invested in God’s creations.

Faith is not an idea. It is not short-term and you don’t just decide to try it one day, but not the next, and bounce back and forth. It is a relationship. It is an investment. It requires patience and cultivating. It does not “live” without effort. Farmers and parents live this truth each minute of each day.

At the end of Mass, we extended our hands and sang a blessing over the graduating seniors. I felt myself wanting to extend it over the parents too. As I drove to work this morning, I felt the same pull regarding the little tiny shoots in the fields and the seeds still under the ground and my friends who this morning woke up and headed to the barn and will be picking rock this afternoon.

“May God bless and keep you,
May God’s face shine on you:
May God be kind to you and give you peace.”

Sheila Hellermann is a member of St. Rose of Lima Church in St. Rosa. She works at St. John’s University as a program and department coordinator for several academic departments. Read more about Sheila on the “Meet Our Bloggers” page.

Missed Opportunity

OK, so I know it did to be controversial and sell its magazine, but when GQ last week put the Bible on its list of “books not worth reading,” I think it still made a mistake. (You can read the article here:

In an attempt to be “cutting edge” with the current trend toward faulting faith and Christianity, for which my defense has been stated, it took a short-sighted, narrow approach. Rather than throwing out the Bible as bad fiction, irrelevant, or divisive, there is potential to find commonality in it.

Jesus Christ is not just an important figure in Christianity. He was Jewish and he is contained in the Muslim faith as a prophet. Abraham is another important figure uniting the three religions.

I have to agree with Tim Swarens at the Indy Star. The Bible also provides an opportunity to understand.

He argues the Bible is important “To understand history: Our nation’s founding document states, “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” Where did those self-evident truths originate? They’re rooted in the biblical concept that all humans are created in God’s image.

I’d argue that the same idea was the inspirational and philosophical bedrock of the Abolitionist and Civil Rights movements. Martin Luther King Jr. was a Baptist preacher; to truly understand his work and writing, you have to read the book that most inspired him.”

Swarens also makes the point that to understand current events – everything from abortion to the fighting between Israelis and Palestinians – the Bible holds the key. Even understanding why Chick-fil-A and Hobby Lobby are closed on Sundays.

Beyond that, how will we ever understand our neighbors if we dismiss them? So instead of insulting Christians and minimizing what they believe, I think we need to realize the Bible reaches beyond any particular group.

He also complains it is repetitive. Yes, it is. In the NRSV version, love is mentioned 538 times, praise 204 times, and joy 172 times. And I appreciate every one. He argues it is foolish and “is rated very highly by all the people who supposedly live by it but who in actuality have not read it.” Well, I certainly don’t read as much as I should, but, like other books, words influence and shape thoughts and actions. I sincerely appreciate (and need) the peace the Bible provides, as well as its ability to lift me up on my worst days.

From his comments, it is obvious the GQ author does not understand the difference between reading a book and truly spending time with authors. At a minimum, I believe he has missed an opportunity to encourage others to learn some history and understand current events. At most, he missed an opportunity to change his own life. It’s a shame.

Proverbs 18:2 “A fool takes no pleasure in understanding, but only in expressing his opinion.”

Psalm 119:130 “The unfolding of your words gives light; it imparts understanding to the simple.”

Sheila Hellermann is a member of St. Rose of Lima Church in St. Rosa. She works at St. John’s University as a program and department coordinator for several academic departments. Read more about Sheila on the “Meet Our Bloggers” page.

Roll Away the Stone

It has been a hard year for faith in the Church.  Lawsuits, arrests, bankruptcy, confrontations. The words to one of my favorite Easter songs hit me hard today. Looking forward to Easter Sunday, I found myself humming it. I stopped, googled the lyrics, and did Lectio Divina. I know you are supposed to use Scripture, but hey, I felt the need to color outside the lines.

I read it.  I reflected.  Went for a few walks. Now is time for contemplation. I believe God is speaking in these lyrics this Easter. We need to listen.

They have been saying all our plans are empty.

They have been saying “Where is their God now?”

They have been saying no one will remember.

They have been saying no one hears the singing.

They have been saying all our strength is gone.

They have been saying “All of us are dying.”

They have been saying “All of us are dead.”

Roll away the stone see the Glory of God.

Roll away the stone.

How true. Society tells us the Church is corrupt and outdated. There is in-fighting within communities, about where God is present as if He is confined within bricks and defined by steeples. All of this leads to the belief that the faith is dead. Roll the stone in front, close that door, proclaim it to be dead; move on. We need to move forward, but that means rolling the stone AWAY, letting the light IN, and believing in the power of Resurrection.

The Church is not defined by abuse, despite what they have been saying. An individual’s bad acts is not indicative of other faithful servants, working hard in parishes every single day, despite what they have been saying. A community is not defined by a single structure, despite what they have been saying.

Sometimes it is really hard not to focus on what they have been saying. We are attracted to that kind of noise. In addition, self-righteousness and belief in our own oppression are stones we place in our own way.

Despite what they have been saying, I believe this is the actual truth. Our plans are not empty. God is present, our strength is not gone, and people will hear the singing. We are not dying. Roll away the stone. Behind it is hope and a future; faith and trust are not dead. What if on Sunday we roll away the stone, not listening to what others are saying.  What if we wake up Sunday and truly live as if Jesus is raised from the dead and in our world – listening to us, journeying beside us on our walk through life as He did to the two men while they walked to Emmaus?  It’s not a crazy thought.

“The old life is gone; a new life has begun!” 2 Corinthians 5:17

“My God’s not dead. He’s surely alive.”  Newsboys

Have a Blessed Easter.

Sheila Hellermann is a member of St. Rose of Lima Church in St. Rosa. She works at St. John’s University as a program and department coordinator for several academic departments. Read more about Sheila on the “Meet Our Bloggers” page.



The Zipper Resolution

I remember Lent as a kid and it was always about giving something up. Usually it was candy or sweets.  Other kids, braver and stronger than I, would give up TV.  Now Lent is different. I still try for the candy thing, but I try to look beyond food in conscious choices to do or be different.

Lent always sounds like New Year’s Resolutions and often we joke about those, and how quickly those are broken. I am happy to say that I do much better with Lent than New Years. I take that as a good sign in terms of my Catholic faith.

Some time ago, I taped a picture to my computer screen at work. Many have seen it, but only one co-worker has asked me about it. The college students who work with me probably just take it as confirmation that I am odd. It is my resolution – for Lent and really for every day.

What does it mean?

A picture of a zipper Sheila keeps on her desk.

Is it True? Is it Necessary? Is it Kind? If not, zipper (as in my mouth, as in be silent, as in walk away). There are cool looking Pinterest things with this, but my purpose is not décor for the office, or to remind others. It is for me. Quiet. Subtle.

In researching the origins of this, I found out in ancient Greece, the philosopher Socrates spoke of it and it was called the Triple Filter Test (Truth, Goodness/Intention, Usefulness/Function).

This, however, is not one of those resolutions where if you fail, you give up. Because I fail often, repeatedly. It is too important, however, to give up. The little reminder puts me back into a place to try again. Following it makes me a better person, better colleague, better friend. Giving up candy has good consequences as well, but that is between the weight scale and me. This resolution, I think, centers my life with God. My relationship with Him is reflected daily, even hourly, in my exchanges with others. My simple “T, N, K” makes me pause. Sometimes it helps and causes me to filter. Sometimes I say things anyway. This resolution helps me recognize my failings.

On the other side, “T, N, K,” also serves as an inspiration to be bold, but on the side of affirmation. Speech is all too often associated with hate and bullying. Negative stuff, but I can use “T, N, K” to lift people up. How many people need that boost? How many people get it? If it is true and it is kind, odds are it is necessary and someone really needs to hear it. Be the light in someone’s otherwise dark day.  That is why my picture is open at the top. I need to find the times when opening my mouth is important and necessary.  Why is this harder for me?  It shouldn’t be.

At the end of each day this Lent, I am going to spend a minute and ask myself “Today was I as quick with my compliments as I was with my complaints?”  If not, I resolve tomorrow to do better. Maybe at the end of the 40 days, I will be able to say “yes” more often than “no.” I know it won’t be every day. God knows that too.

Sheila Hellermann is a member of St. Rose of Lima Church in St. Rosa. She works at St. John’s University as a program and department coordinator for several academic departments. Read more about Sheila on the “Meet Our Bloggers” page.

Living authentically

It seems to be a new catch phrase, “live authentically.” Yet, as a Catholic, sometimes that is harder than it appears. For me, this time of year is especially difficult. It has nothing to do with Christmas. Next week we mark the anniversary of Roe v. Wade which legalized abortion. It is not news to anyone who knows me well that I am a practicing Catholic and I do not hide my faith. I have encouraged Confirmation students to wear their faith like a coat. Not like a Sunday coat or Wednesday night coat (because you have to go to religion class), but every day. This is hard advice to dispense when I, myself, find myself not necessarily wearing my coat when talk around office, on the street, in the store, or wherever there are conversations and debates that split society and, in cases, split Catholics themselves.

I often go back to another question. “If you were on trial for being a Catholic, would there be enough evidence to convict you?” I got started thinking about this after a homily on Sunday where a visiting priest told us to remember that someday, in heaven, we will see someone and we will remember that we could have done more. I think this applies to individuals, as well as our faith. There is always more we can do to defend our faith, our beliefs – even those hard ones – where we are challenged. In my case, it is not doubt in what I believe, but lack of confidence in the face of belittlement, shaming, and implications about a lack of intelligence, as though Catholicism, especially certain teachings, are ignorant or misogynistic. Though I do not understand how believing, fundamentally, that life begins at conception qualifies for those labels.

We all have a faith unique to us and our process of discernment is a continuous process. Our ‘action plan’ for our faith evolves, as opportunities come up and changes force us in a different path. But is that path always moving in the direction of God? We can’t jump on and off the Catholic bandwagon depending on the issue. We can’t be on God’s team only when it is winning. This isn’t football and the Minnesota Vikings. (Speaking of which, imagine if we showed that same level of enthusiasm supporting our Catholic “team.” Wow!)

Our faith defines us. Are we authentic or are we putting on a show? Are we the same person in church as we are in school? You don’t need to be an evangelist at every opportunity, or a saint, to be a faithful Catholic. You can be you. That is enough for God. At the same time, are we speaking up to defend what we believe?

Matthew 5:14-15 says “You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house.”

Regretfully I admit to covering my faith with a bowl to avoid those difficult conversations. Yet, even if you do not have faith bold enough to stand on the top of a hill with your light, it can be shared. I have done so more quietly, in my own way. I know that is not enough. It is not truly authentic. We have dark corners to light. We have truth to share.

Rather than hiding it, I think we need to remember that our faith may have an impact on another. It is a deeply personal thing, but if you own it and really wear it, it will touch the people around you and it will make a difference in your families, to your friends, to complete strangers. God gave us a voice, to sing (though my case not very well) and to speak. To declare our belief that January 22, 1973, the Supreme Court got it wrong…very wrong.

This new year I am going to try harder to wear my coat, not just Sundays. I am going to try to be found guilty of being a Catholic at every opportunity. I am going to focus on that prayer we say often, but perhaps do not consider closely enough. Where we consider and ask for help “in my thoughts and in my words, in what I have done, and in what I have failed to do.”

To my friends who are bold, who are walking proud in the March for Life, thank you for using your light. You have my admiration. I want to be as guilty as you of being Catholic.

Sheila Hellermann is a member of St. Rose of Lima Church in St. Rosa. She works at St. John’s University as a program and department coordinator for several academic departments. Read more about Sheila on the “Meet Our Bloggers” page.

Advent Series: What we don’t know

One of my favorite Christmas songs is “Mary did you know” written by Mark Lowry. I like all renditions, but recommend googling the Pentatonix version.

I think a lot about the lyrics:

“Mary did you know that your baby boy will one day walk on water?

Mary did you know that your baby boy will give sight to a blind man?

Mary did you know that your baby boy will calm a storm with his hand?”

No, I don’t think she did. The journey she accepted was already overwhelming, knowing the situation with Joseph and the public scrutiny she would face. Imagine if she knew the full story – what Jesus would do, how He would suffer, how He would change the world. What she did have was tremendous faith, despite the unknown.

We cannot purchase faith, sell it or give it to our friends. Wouldn’t it be great if we could? It would make shopping so much easier. Here is a wrapped up package filled with faith that your grandpa will get well. Here is a cute box with a bow filled with faith about your children and their choices. Here is a gift bag, with extra tissue paper, filled with faith that the major decision you made was the right one.

How often do you wish you could just hug someone and transfer the belief you have in them, to them, giving them comfort and confidence? How different do we see ourselves, than how others see us? Wouldn’t it be a gift if we could change that? Unfortunately that doesn’t work and faith does not come in a store, with a receipt for returning it.

As we think about Christmas, faith and those gifts we wrap, I think there are two important things to keep in mind. What seems not very important to you, like casual conversation, may be vital to someone else. Those words of criticism that seem like jokes or kidding, or the verbal praise you don’t say because it’s no big deal or “we just don’t do that in our family” — are more important than you think. Words are so much more than verbal gift wrapping. And remember, someone else is keeping your words and actions close to their heart, recycling over and over in their minds what we said…or didn’t say. Think about what is actually the greatest gift you can give someone. (Hint: It can’t be gift wrapped.)

On the other side, we need to keep remember what seems damaged can still have value. We are more than what our circumstances appear to be to other people. We need to see ourselves in the mirror as God see us, not the rest of the world. This is what I think Mary did know – very well – about herself and her son. I think this is especially important during this season, because while many look forward to everything that comes with the traditions, others are scared, hurting and very much alone. Remember the first Christmas. Mary giving birth in a stable, with everything (physical and emotional) surrounding her at the time.

Finally, the song also asks Mary, did you know “when you kiss your little baby, you have kissed the face of God?” I hope you will think about that this week as we head into Christmas. Each and every person we meet provides us the opportunity to demonstrate our faith, and what is truly important.

If following the model of Mary seems overwhelming, and the approaching pressures of the holiday is overwhelming, remember one more thing. This time from another of my favorites, the Grinch, with his Grinch-feet. (I know, huge swing from Mary to the Grinch.) But he figured out that Christmas comes without ribbons and tags or from a store. Christmas “means a bit more.” Christmas is about a simple, humble stable, and had someone scared, who really didn’t know how it all would work out. Maybe we are more like Mary than we think.

Sheila Hellermann is a member of St. Rose of Lima Church in St. Rosa. She works at St. John’s University as a program and department coordinator for several academic departments. Read more about Sheila on the “Meet Our Bloggers” page.

God can be found in the silence

Last week I volunteered at one of my favorite events at St. John’s University — serving Thanksgiving dinner to students. Students receive tickets, come all dressed up and are served the traditional foods. It is family style, so we give them the turkey, mashed potatoes, gravy, corn, dressing, pumpkin pie, and they pass it around their table. One lucky student gets designated to carve the turkey. It is a wonderful event and about 1,800 students take part and are served over the course of the night. The men’s choir stands up and sings in the Great Hall. And I got to work with Father Rene, one of my favorite human beings. It is a tradition, and a very beautiful one at that.

As I was leaving, I saw a student looking inside, through the glass doors. He was wearing sweatpants and was alone. As I opened the door, he quickly left. Maybe it was a student with class… maybe. Or maybe he had no group, no invitation to join. As I returned to my office, I hoped he had a place for the approaching long Thanksgiving weekend. I hope his solitary evening was limited to this event as the holidays approach.

I think we are quick to assume that everyone has a shared experience when it comes to holidays and family events. Do we stop to consider, as millions of pictures are posted on Facebook of happy gatherings, that maybe someone is sitting alone? There is no place they fit. Relationships are strained. Maybe they are living in fear. Or they just don’t feel welcome.

This time of year we have food drives for food shelves and volunteerism at shelters is high. These are great! Hunger and homelessness are especially tragic this time of year. But inside our own communities, in our circles, our co-workers, there are those who are broken and sad. Those who have the material goods they need, but not the spiritual support. Truth be told, being home alone over the holidays is not as glamorous as 8-year-old Kevin McCallister (Macaulay Culkin) made it appear in the movie “Home Alone.”

But for you, sitting alone Thursday, this blog is for you. You are not unimportant or unworthy. And for every amazing album of pictures shared on Facebook, there is someone just like you sitting on their couch. Remember that God can be found in the silence. He is speaking. You are not alone. Not this holiday, not ever.

Psalm 147:3 “He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds.”

Sheila Hellermann is a member of St. Rose of Lima Church in St. Rosa. She works at St. John’s University as a program and department coordinator for several academic departments. Read more about Sheila on the “Meet Our Bloggers” page.

What do we treasure?

Matthew 6: 19-21 “Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon the earth, where moth and rust consume, and where thieves break through and steal: but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth consume, and where thieves do not break through nor steal: for where thy treasure is, there will thy heart be also.

I helped a friend clean her attic recently. I have spent time reflecting about it since. I know, most people want to finish such a project and put it behind them. The dust…the spider webs…and other creatures you realize may be joining you (though unseen). However, in recent months I have found myself thinking about our life’s journeys. We each have a different one and we each choose to live it uniquely and, hopefully, authentically. How do we do that? Well, I am not a picture person. There is little physical evidence on this earth I exist, particularly if you judge existence by the number of photos you appear in or possessions you own. Does this lack indicate a life wasted or, at a minimum, insufficiently documented?

I saw a quote recently from Louie CK. While not the most appropriate man to quote for a Catholic blog, I appreciated his sentiment. “I don’t like taking pictures with people… It doesn’t feel normal,” CK explained about people’s need to take a selfie with him rather than have an actual conversation. “I always shake their hand and ask their name because everybody is interesting.” Imagine that, he wants to use that brief encounter, just for a moment, to learn about a stranger.

Treasuring a moment should be about closing your eyes, remembering a smell or a sound or a touch. I think we need to find a way to enjoy things beyond literal societal requirements. Observe. Let some things happen, pass, and then reflect. For instance, when you attended the state fair, would you smile at your selfie in front of the Sweet Aunt Martha’s cookie stand or do you remember the taste of the cookies? I am too skeptical for pictures. I see smiles, but I think about what is going on inside. Worries, hopes, ambitions, anxieties, love, hate, joy, sorrow, disappointment, satisfaction, anguish, anger, gratitude. Who are they really? Where do they wish they really were? I want a conversation; I want to hear your feelings. Describe it to me in words so I can feel your emotions; let’s talk.

Why does this have to do with the attic and my friend? There was a lot of “stuff.” To most, much of it would appear to be of little value or consequence. However, with each box there was a new story – Christmas gifts of long ago- some close to 70 years old, an assortment of practical jokes (definitely inappropriate for Catholic blog), retirement gifts marking a well-earned completion of a career, worn back braces from a severe injury. It was fun, almost a game – what used to be in this empty box? Where did it come from; on what occasion; who gave it; and most importantly, what did you feel about it. We built upon the stories as the day went on. Little pieces, little insights. Her son was able to hear about his mom’s childhood and touch and experience the same toys she played with as a child. She was a person, with feelings, memories and stories, not just “mom.” She joked that we were preparing for an estate sale for someone not dead yet. With that her son stopped her and pointed out that without her narrative, without her voice, all of the “stuff” would not have meaning. Now some of it seems priceless. It is the power of her story that gives it value.

At a certain age we start to think about how a particular day, interaction, experience becomes part of the great story of our life, rather than just another day. Who or what will tell our story? Will people wish there would be one more conversation, one more hug, or one more letter or card? (yes, handwritten, with an actual stamp!) One of the coolest treasures we found was a get-well poster with notes from friends and family that was from a surgery over 30 years ago. Seeing familiar names, remembering forgotten faces. Actually hand-made, handwritten (in cursive even!)

The quest for literal documentation is not new. Remember Thomas in the Gospel. In today’s world, Doubting Thomas would have demanded a picture. In the story of Martha and Mary (the sisters) in Luke 10:39-40, “Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet and listened to his teaching. But Martha was distracted with much serving.” I am pretty sure Martha would have had a camera. Maybe we should be like Mary (his mother) who “treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart.” Luke 2:19.

Sheila Hellermann is a member of St. Rose of Lima Church in St. Rosa. She works at St. John’s University as a program and department coordinator for several academic departments. Read more about Sheila on the “Meet Our Bloggers” page.

Keep the Change

“Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I set you apart.” Jeremiah 1:5

You have seen them – those pro-life billboards between Freeport and Avon. Designed by Profile Across America, these ads offer hope and help to those in need. They are cute, tender, and touching, with facts and an 800 telephone number for help. Billboards are expensive, but there are people who recognize that this message is needed and work hard to get it out. The billboards in this area are the work of the Hartung family from St. Rosa and volunteers from the tri-parish cluster. Each year, for five days, all day long, volunteers run the fried bread stand under the grandstand at the Stearns County Fair. Armed with frozen bread dough, sugar, cinnamon, propane tank and fryer and a passion for the pro-life effort, yummy bread is sold, with all the proceeds going toward these billboards.

This effort was actually started in 1976 by Lawrence and Mary Ann Douvier, dear friends of Hartungs. When they wanted to retire, Hartungs took up the mission. It started with one billboard, then two, and, after last year, three are supported for a year, until the next Stearns County Fair and fundraising effort.

I have been privileged to work in the stand for a shift the past several years. The Stearns County Fair, much like an airport or shopping mall, is a great place for people-watching. I am struck each year by the reactions of people to the stand. A portion do not read the signs or recognize the cause, they are just hungry and fried bread is a great fair food. Others are very aware of the pro-life effort we are working for. There are words of encouragement, words of thanks. Sometimes people donate without taking any bread (clearly not recognizing the nutritional value and not knowing that bread is a “grain” in the food pyramid). Sometimes they want a partial portion, but pay for a full. Others just say “keep the change,” asking us to take their additional donation.

The dedication of the volunteers, especially the Hartungs, is truly impressive. Yes, it is hot in there. (We get that comment a lot.) Yes, it is really loud in there when the demolition derby starts. But sharing time and space (very small space) with people who share the same goal, commitment to life, and enthusiasm, makes fun. It is one of my favorite nights of the year. You leave oily, sugary, but smiling.

Parish fellowship is about enabling the gathering of friends and is usually found in church basements after Mass. I think it can also be about bringing the parish into community. Jesus had fellowship with small groups, sometimes just his Apostles, but we are asked to take our time and talents and be part of a larger Church that includes everyone – creating a community in Christ. You would not think of the Stearns County Fair as a community in Christ, but in this little corner of the fair, that is what happens.

“For where two or three gather in My name, there am I with them.” Matthew 18:20

Until next year, keep an eye out for those billboards and pray for the unborn and those who find themselves scared and confused.

Sheila Hellermann is a member of St. Rose of Lima Church in St. Rosa. She works at St. John’s University as a program and department coordinator for several academic departments. Read more about Sheila on the “Meet Our Bloggers” page.

Works of Heart

“All the skilled women spun with their hands, and brought what they had spun, in blue and purple and scarlet material and in fine linen. All the women whose heart stirred with a skill….” Exodus 35:25-26

At St. Rose of Lima parish, if you are a member, you are in a quilting group. Each year, the “chair” of the group is responsible for the organizing of the group and making sure there is a quilt for the auction at the fall festival. You can contract with a quilter to make a whole quilt, or buy fabric and have a quilt top made, then schedule a time with the quilting ladies (Tuesdays in the church basement all winter long!).

At Christian Women’s meetings when the talk turns to patterns like “lone star” and “wedding ring,” I smile and nod, pretending I understand. All the while, I am in awe.

Last year, I was a chair. I have no idea how to quilt. I spent a traumatic three hours at the quilt store, determined to find a pattern and fabrics that would make a nice quilt. I wanted to try. I ventured into terms like jelly rolls, fat quarter, sashing. I left with the necessary supplies (thanks to very nice and patient people who work there). I promptly delivered my purchases to an amazing lady, Monika, who I had contacted earlier to assemble the top.

When complete, the church basement ladies scheduled it for hand stitching on a Tuesday and I made sure myself and other members of my group supplied lunch. Months later it was sold at our parish festival, garnering a nice sum. That is, if you only consider the materials and some nominal sum for labor. In truth, if you consider the true labor costs – creating the top, hand stitching, binding (and all the other things I have no idea about) – whatever price received at auction seems low. Yes, the auction is the reason and yes, the proceeds from the auction are outstanding and contribute considerably to our parish finances. But what is the true reward? I contend it is not the final product – the quilts – but instead it is about the process, the tradition, the friendship, the women themselves.

An internet search tells me that dreaming of sewing signifies the development of a new thought. A dream of sewing is also associated with fixing, repairing, or renewing something in your life. “Renewal of something”… that sounds like Tuesdays in the parish church basement. It is about more than sewing and hand stitching around quilt frames each week (often two quilts at a time because that many women show up). It is about the quilts, but it is about the women just as much. The conversation. Jokes. Advice. Stories. Sharing. These quilts could be made in basements around the community, in solitude and by individuals. But the value this tradition brings to the parish is immeasurable. It is what their mothers did. Their grandmothers did. What they still do together. Bringing word of engagements, pregnancies, vacations, they rejoice together. Bringing worries, fears, stress, anxiety, in the basement, they are not alone. Grief, anger, fear, worry – these things cause our hearts to tear, requiring mending and sewing to make needed repairs.

Ecclesiastes 3:7 says there is “a time to sew together.” I believe these women keep the parish stitched together literally and figuratively, binding together quilts and hearts.

“Therefore encourage one another and build one another up, just as you are doing.” 1 Thessalonians 5:11

Blogger’s note: Sunday, September 3rd @ 2 PM is St. Rose of Lima parish quilt auction. Come for a quilt and honor the work of these amazing women.

Sheila Hellermann is a member of St. Rose of Lima Church in St. Rosa. She works at St. John’s University as a program and department coordinator for several academic departments. Read more about Sheila on the “Meet Our Bloggers” page.