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Inside NCR

Stoles with panache, poetry with bite

It all started with Uncle Lynn’s ordination. Cynthia Simonds, the quilter, with a little help from her mother-in-law and various sisters-in-law, made him a stole. In case you are into this, each side of the stole was made up of “four bargello panels” and the result was “gorgeous” -- she said so herself.

Then Simonds, who lives in Bristol, Maine, did a stole for Fr. Ray Picard for baptizing her daughter Elizabeth. “He liked it,” she explains superfluously, so for his birthday she made him another. Then it was the turn of her husband’s Aunt Shirley -- I’m not making this up -- to be ordained. To nobody’s surprise she got, that’s right, a stole that “ranged in color from vibrant reds to rich burgundy to glorious purples.” Then, when her friend Annemarie had a baby, the baptizing priest got a stole. You get the picture.

Then commerce raised its head. Fr. Picard -- remember, he already has two Simonds stoles, at least -- suggested she sell the stoles (not his, others). Picard even posed as a model for publicity pictures. Simonds’ quilting talents are matched only by her genius for publicity.

When she saw “Nothing Sacred’s” Fr. Ray on the Rosie O’Donnell show (which, needless to say, she loves), she had an idea; she phoned until she found the “Sacred” costume department where they said they’d like a purple stole for the Advent show, which, after reading all this, you may have already missed.

But that’s not all. They liked the purple one so well, the “Nothing Sacred” people ordered another, in ivory, for the Christmas episode.

And here’s the Simonds difference, in her own words: “When [the stole] was gone [to Hollywood], I again felt hopeful about what I had sent. It became more than 22 ivory fabrics for I had interwoven some of myself in all the stitches. The whole truly was more than the sum of the parts. I hope they can feel how much of me is in each stole. I sent them hope and joy and strength to continue their journey through television into our homes.”

What other TV program can boast of love like this?

The saga continues. TV programs practically everywhere are being canvassed. “Seventh Heaven,” a drama on WPIX in New York, has ordered one -- “ivory with a touch of gold” (God is in the details). By the time you read this, the pope may be wearing a Simonds stole. Or, if you want one yourself, she’s at 207-677-3093. There’s more to it than stitching. I know this because I live in a house where quilts are made and they, too, are more than the sum of their stitches.

Meanwhile, the inimitable Sr. Rose Tillemans of Minneapolis is at the poetry again. Her latest collection is Questions of a Cradle Catholic, 16 short poems, all questions because “imprimatur is not needed for questions, only for answers.” For example:

When Jesus said, “Upon this rock I will build my church,”
Did Peter begin a Vatican search?
Was a Roman site with all its glory
Any part of the Jesus story?
Does Jesus wonder about the Vatican
And what prelates there are really at again?

The booklet is available for $2 (though more would help), which will help support Peace House, a storefront gathering place for the poor and homeless where Tillemans works. Write to The Underground Press, 2300 E. Franklin Avenue #215, Minneapolis MN 55406. Where else would you get poems like this?

For those of us uncanonized
Will some system be devised
Whereby all our friends and kin
Might know if we are out or in?

National Catholic Reporter, December 12, 1997