The Experiences of a Traveling Seamstress

By Sister Adelamarie Arth

Sewing for our Worldwide Mission

As a seamstress for our community, I have the great joy of helping our sisters by making our uniform dress, the dress of Mary, for them. It is a beautiful and prayer-filled work. As I sew each dress, I pray for that sister and the work she will do in that dress, whether she is the sister who welcomes school groups, or leads pilgrimages, or works as a youth sister, accountant, nurse, superior, secretary, etc. No matter what work each sister does, she does it as a reflection of Mary in the world. She shapes the world through her being, and the clothing she wears helps her to do this. What we wear says something about who we are. Through our dress, we tell the world that we are consecrated to God and the Blessed Mother. It is my great joy to know that through the work I do, I can directly help our worldwide mission. However, recently, not only my prayers and my dresses were sent out into our worldwide mission; I, too, got sent out and could experience a new perspective of our great mission.

Sent Out to Puerto Rico

In the midst of the pandemic, while all our retreat centers were closed, I was asked to go to Puerto Rico for some months to sew new dresses for our sisters there. Since I have now made many dresses for our sisters, I have a good idea of what I need for each dress. I packed all the materials and tools I needed. I didn’t know exactly what type of sewing machines they had there, but other than that, I thought I had a pretty good idea of what to expect when I got to Puerto Rico. However, I was really amazed at how many unexpected joys were also awaiting me.

An Experience of Family

I arrived on November 1 and could stay until the end of February. This meant that I was there for Advent, Christmas, a few feast days, and part of Lent. As an American, it was beautiful to experience these times and to see the similarities and differences between our cultures. It was especially beautiful to experience anew that our community is really a family. The sisters were happy to welcome me, and it was a great gift for me to get to know each of them better. It was also a gift to see how our community and Schoenstatt and really our Catholic faith in general are the same no matter where you are, but at the same time, how each place has its unique richness.

Probably the best experience was Christmas. When I entered our community and I experienced my first Christmas as a sister, I experienced the beauty and greatness of this feast in a new way. However, one could think that maybe it is only this beautiful when you are surrounded by the newness of novitiate, or maybe it is only this beautiful in our provincial house. However, now I can truly say that Christmas in our community is beautiful. Even if I am in a totally different climate and culture, our songs have a different rhythm, and the Christmas stories are in a different language, the atmosphere is just as beautiful. We really are a family, and our family joy can easily cross oceans and cultures. This is true of our sisters’ family and also of our Catholic family. The liturgies all had a bit of a different rhythm with different music in a foreign language, and we also didn’t follow the same rhythm of sitting, standing, and kneeling that I am accustomed to, but I came to see how small those details are. The holy Mass was still the same. The readings, the prayers, and above all, the atmosphere were still the same. We really gathered as the Family of God to praise him for the great and greatest gifts he has given.

Life from a New Perspective

During those four months, I enjoyed seeing life from a new perspective. I could experience for myself that our community, our Church, and our world are full of a very enriching diversity to which I can contribute but also from which I receive many gifts. By the end of February, I had really grown to love the Puerto Rican culture, but since all my sewing was complete, it was time for me to return home and share the richness I had received with my sisters who were waiting for me back in Wisconsin. As beautiful as the experience was, I am glad to be back home in our provincial house with new incentive to offer my prayers and capital of grace for our sisters and our worldwide mission.