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Sisters create pro-life items to appeal to youth

Posted By January 16, 2014 | 12:11 pm | Lead Story #3

By Tanya Connor

If you step inside a workshop at St. Joseph’s House in Still River, you just might find Sister Marie Bernard doing her embroidery. But you won’t see her applying a single needle to a cloth on her lap.
Instead, the member of the Slaves of the Immaculate Heart of Mary sits at a computer in one of the sisters’ buildings. On the screen is an image she arranged – roses embraced by the word “Pro-Life.”
She sends a command and a needle with green thread begins bobbing up and down in the embroidery machine beside the computer, forming the rose’s stems and leaves on a piece of cloth. A needle with red thread waits its turn to add the roses. Still another color will produce the word.
It’s computerized to automatically change the colors of thread needed for the design – up to 16 colors – according to Sister Marie Bernard.
But religious sisters aren’t immune to the trials of daily life. The needle breaks and the project grinds to a sudden halt. This doesn’t derail Sister Marie Bernard from her journey to sanctity, however. She calmly explains how it can be fixed.
The Sisters are preparing for the March for Life in Washington, D.C., where they hope to encourage youth to wear their wares: embroidered scarves, hats and vests, and silk-screened gloves and light backpacks, bearing a version of the slogan, “Pro-Lifers Never Say Die.”
Their “quote totes” – canvas bags with the wisdom of saints – share others’ messages. So does the apron they designed and had Tyca Corporation in Clinton make for them, with Mary and Baby Jesus and a quote from the philosopher Marcus Tullius Cicero: “All things begin small,” says Sister Katherine Maria, prioress.
Another company makes the tilmas and coverlets with Our Lady of Guadalupe, patroness of the unborn, which the Sisters designed, she says.
“Part of it she designed herself,” she says of the Blessed Mother, who appears pregnant in this 1531 apparition. The Blessed Mother’s image was found imprinted on St. Juan Diego’s tilma after she arranged roses in his garment.
The prioress says the Sisters have been selling items at the march for about 20 years, but this will be only the second year they’ve done the embroidery. They have a table in the exhibit hall at the March for Life Convention at the Hyatt Regency.
“Anything we do has to have a point to it,” she says. “That makes it mission. Otherwise it’s just a store. And we’re not just a store.
“We try to make it youth-appealing. I think people need visuals. To see someone wearing something – it’s almost like an actual grace. … This is a statement that will prick people’s consciences to think about something deeper – the value of life.”
Being pro-life is part of the Catholic mission, she says. Those who sport a pro-life message become part of the apostolate.
The Sisters also promote their spirituality with St. Louis de Montfort’s “True Devotion to Mary,” which they publish, the prioress says. And they’ve designed rings and chain bracelets to remind those who consecrate themselves to Mary in this way of their commitment.
Then there’s their slogan, “Save the Earth: Pray the Rosary,” which goes with beads they call “a supernatural gift made of all natural materials” from Brazil. An accompanying pamphlet, explains why the rosary is “the perfect answer to our social ills,” Sister Katherine Maria says.
Youth come looking for souvenirs, and the Sisters try to sell things at prices they can afford, she says. Since the Sisters don’t have to pay themselves, they can charge less and sell more, and thus spread the word farther. They’re trying to make a living, not a killing. (Pardon the pun.)
Four Sisters are to make the trip to Washington, D.C., Jan. 19-22, Sister Katherine Maria says. She says she used to go, but now likes to let the younger sisters enjoy the experience.