Friday, February 17, 2017

A pre-history of the Guild of St Clare


It seems the Guild of St Clare has a pre-history: there existed, up to about the time of Vatican II, a 'St Clare's Guild' for sewing in Catholic parishes in the United States. I'd be interested to hear more about this Guild from those who have any information.

From an email:

On a regular basis, the Guild would meet to sew what I recall were "pads for cancer patients". There may have been other projects that they worked on, but I recall that one. As to the spirituality of the group, I have no clue, nor whether it was promoted by my parish (Nativity of Our Lord) or the Archdiocese of St Paul Minnesota.

What I recall was a large number of women gathering at the house on an occasional basis and hand sewing. My Mother would refer to it as the St. Clare Guild, and she participated in it probably until 1960 or so. That was a time, of course, when many women did not work outside the house but would involve themselves in charitable work.

There was quite a bit of adult catechesis at the time as well. My Mother also belonged to a parish sponsored "women's discussion club". There were many such discussion clubs set up by my parish on a neighborhood basis. Members were asked to read chapters of books written by Catholic authors (it was the time of Venerable Bishop Fulton Sheen) and gather to discuss what they had read.

In addition to the women's discussion club, there were discussion clubs for couples and both of my parents participated in the one for our neighborhood.


Comment: Any group of skilled ladies doing vestment repairs would have suffered the same fate as groups of skilled singers: under the new dispensation they were no longer needed, or only for things which would not have motivated them to hang around. The new spirituality did for any groups based on spiritual matters. 

It is not clear whether this St Clare's Guild did much liturgical sewing, however, and there were other factors at work: the 1970s saw the decline of every kind of voluntary and leisure group. Robert Putnam, in his well-known study Bowling Alone, blames commuting, TV, increased female participation in the labour market, and a mysterious 'generational change'. I've discussed this on this blog here.

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