CANANDAIGUA — “What defines me?” Mary Connolly wondered aloud Sept. 26 as she looked at a shamrock cut out of green cloth that sat in the middle of a rectangular piece of white fabric.
Connolly was one of seven parishioners who came to St. Mary Church’s Dougherty Hall to construct quilt blocks to be used in the parish’s most recent project — parish quilts.
In August, Deacon Claude Lester, the parish’s faith-formation director, came up with the idea of putting together quilts representing the parish, with each family in the parish creating and contributing one square. Since there are 3,500 families in the parish, the goal is to make eight quilts, which will eventually be hung in Dougherty Hall, according to Karen Neubecker, the project’s coordinator.
By mid-August, Neubecker had purchased several bolts of fabric, as well as fabric paints and markers, buttons, ribbons and other accessories to use for the project. She spent the next several weeks cutting 7-by 9-inch rectangular pieces out of white fabric. When she’d cut out 2,000, she put each in a small plastic bag — along with instructions and suggestions for how to design the quilt block — and left them by the church doors.
Families can be as creative with their squares as they want to be, Neubecker said. They can decorate their squares to reflect interests or hobbies, family heritage or something symbolic or representative of the family. Using a computer, photographs, crests and family trees can even be downloaded and printed out as iron-on transfers, she added.
Families can create their quilt blocks at home if they wish, but if they are feeling “creatively impaired,” they can come to Dougherty Hall between 12:45 and 4 p.m. Oct. 10, Nov. 14 and Nov. 19. Neubecker will be there to offer suggestions, supplies and assistance, she said.
On Sept. 26, Neubecker helped design a quilt block featuring a bowling lane for a parishioner who had been bowling since the 1940s, and helped several other parishioners decide what to put on their blocks.
Connolly had decided earlier that day to use a shamrock to represent her Irish heritage. She later determined that she is defined by faith, family and friends, and decided to put those words along the outside edge of the shamrock. Annette King chose to put a purple crown in the middle of her quilt block.
“I think it’s the closest thing I could think of for king,” she explained.
Anna Troiano likes to bake, so she thought she would probably put a bundle of wheat on her quilt block. She also likes the way wheat looks, and appreciates its symbolism and biblical significance, and toyed with the idea of writing “the bread of life” around the bundle of wheat.
Although they’d all attended St. Mary’s for years, some of the women who worked on their quilt blocks Sept. 26 were meeting each other for the first time. After introducing themselves, they chatted easily and laughed often as they worked. Creating this kind of parish camaraderie was one of the goals of the quilt project, Neubecker said.
“We’re such a large parish, I think we kind of lose touch with people who go to the other Masses,” Neubecker said.
The quilts, as well as a new banner for the church, are being made in honor of the parish’s yearlong centennial celebration, which begins this November and will end in November 2005.
All the quilt blocks need to be finished and returned to Neubecker by Dec. 1. After receiving the blocks, she will stitch them together into eight large quilts, which will be hung in Dougherty Hall in January.