"The greater the work the more
important it is to establish it on
a solid foundation. Thus it will
not only be more perfect; it
will also be more lasting.”

St. Louise de Marillac

“Be diligent in serving
the poor. Love the poor,
honor them, my children,
as you would honor
Christ Himself.”

St. Louise de Marillac


From Hands to Heart

By S. Georgia Kitt

(Left, front to back) S. Mary Barbara Philippart, Associate Liz Maxwell, S. Christine Rody, (right, front to back) S. Ann Hunt and S. Rita Maureen Schmidt enjoy spending their afternoons working together on their first-ever major quilting project.

A box of fabric found in the Rody sisters’ mother’s attic has opened a whole new world of opportunities for Sisters in the Motherhouse and Mother Margaret Hall nursing facility. After scavenging for backing, potential quilters and space, the volunteers were ready to embark on their project of making a quilt.

At first the challenge was new to all. Sisters Christine and Ruth Ann Rody split the cost of the filler and backing, reviewed the particulars of mom’s poppies quilt kit and set up the frame to begin on Jan. 21, 2023. S. Ruth Ann has been the cheerleader providing support and help throughout while S. Christine has been the team leader, teacher, and approver charting the way forward. She credits S. Ruth Ann with finding the kit and fabric and bringing it with her when she moved to the Motherhouse. The fabric has been waiting to receive loving attention for 50-plus years.

Who are these quilters in the making? Both Rody sisters learned to sew at a young age; their mother was a campfire leader when S. Christine was in the fourth grade. Early projects included knitting stocking caps, a practical item for cold Cleveland winters. S. Christine learned to embroider at age 6, but this will be her first major quilting project, followed through from beginning to completion. Nieces look forward to receiving handmade items from their Rody aunts for significant life events, so ‘the gift’ is being passed on to younger generations in the family.

S. Ann Hunt was taught to embroider by her mom at home and to sew by S. Leo Margaret (S. Linda Chavez) in her high school home economics class where they made pill box hats for Easter. She and her friends became so skilled that prom dresses resulted! In the 1970s she found it relaxing to work with macramé, creating plant hangers and designs with yarn roping. In later years a staff member at The Women’s Connection taught S. Ann and the women how to do smaller patchwork quilts as well as a bit of applique. “They were so encouraging; they made it fun. We took pride in the finished products which made great fundraisers to benefit our programs,” S. Ann shared. “This Motherhouse quilting project has been a wonderful goal to aim for. I am proud of what we have accomplished in nine months.”

For Associate Liz Maxwell, her mother’s gift with needlework was passed on to her. Liz began with a sixth grade Singer sewing class where her parents surely got their money’s worth! She went on to make clothes for herself and others; she often designed them as well. Liz made school uniforms for the neighborhood kids which could get boring when she wanted to be outside in the warm summer months. As for quilts, “It’s easy and fun,” says Liz. “It is a satisfying experience giving and receiving in a communal activity, creating beauty together.”

S. Mary Barbara Philippart has decided, “One quilt is enough in my lifetime.” She first learned to sew at the feet of her grandmother and mother; it began with bandages for the war effort and moved on to doll clothes. While on mission in Peru they were able to get Treadle sewing machines for the women in the parishes and at the school; it was a tremendous time-saver for them. She also helped with knitting scarves, hats and purses for the families. “Sewing is a valued skill that comes in handy, especially among the poor,” she says.

S. Rita Maureen Schmidt also learned to sew at a young age, encouraged by her mom and her aunt. She learned to embroider at age 6; by the time she was in high school she created a luncheon cloth using cross-stitch. To this day she recalls favorite fabric pieces her family, particularly her aunt, took pride in when the sewing projects were completed. “It’s a skill you take with you. The finished product gives you a feeling of family closeness,” S. Rita Maureen commented.

What can be said regarding the progress with the quilt? You have met the contributors. Obviously their past skills with needle and thread have been revisited and encouraged as word spread of the new opportunity that emerged on the Motherhouse campus. Red poppies, green leaves and stems abound! They realized a quilt size of 81 inches by 100 inches required a lot of basting to assure quilting and applique lines match. They have come a long way from the practice squares they began with in late winter. To date they have contributed 840-plus hours and estimate that it will take a total of 1,700 hours to complete. Remember, it is the first major quilt project for any of them! They plan to continue to enjoy one another’s company, gather around the frame and take the time needed for it to be a finished product they can take pride in. They welcome a brief visit by those who are interested; they meet most weekday afternoons at 1 p.m.

When completed the goal is to have a raffle for the quilt, for a minimum of $1,000, with the proceeds going to the Sisters Retirement Fund. At this midway point, these women could be thinking: “My soul is fed by needle and thread. To quilt is human; to finish is divine.” Author unknown.

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