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Mary’s sewing a blessing


From sewing school uniforms through to christening gowns for her grandchildren, Mary Bugeja thought she had accomplished most things as a dressmaker – until she was asked to make a mitre to be worn at one of Australia’s largest ever Catholic celebrations.

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The challenge was set by Archbishop Wilson who wanted to wear the mitre at the canonisation of Mary MacKillop in 2010.

He had heard that Mary, who joined the Adelaide Cathedral parish as a sacristan in 2007, was a talented seamstress and had no hesitation in approaching her with the proposed task.

“He had a lot of faith in me and that gave me confidence. I had certainly never made one of those before, but I decided to give it a go,” Mary said.

Drawing on 35 years’ experience of running a business which made uniforms for schools around Adelaide, Mary sewed the mitre to perfection and her accomplishment saw many more projects sent her way. In recent years she has been responsible for producing beautiful chasubles, altar cloths and albs for different churches within the parish, while also juggling her job as a sacristan.

“The sewing here all began when I was washing and ironing clothing for the Cathedral and zips would break, and so I just started mending them,” Mary explained.

“Then we were short of albs – the kids were coming in to serve and they had no albs – so I asked if I could get some material and make some.

“When the Archbishop found out about my sewing, he had other things that he wanted fixed and then he asked me if I could make a mitre for him for the Mary MacKillop canonisation.”

A bit like an elf toiling in Santa’s workshop, Mary, 72, made do with the facilities available in the Cathedral buildings but as demand grew, she needed to have more space.

“It got to the point where it was not ideal to work in such a restricted environment.

“Jane Garforth was the office manager in the Archdiocese at the time and recognised that a different venue needed to be explored, but nothing was found to be suitable to deal with the demands of sewing.

“Eventually I realised that the upper level of the sacristy could be a possible option because two rooms were vacant.

It wasn’t being used because the staircase was deemed too dangerous. “It was in a bad state – it was dark and there were cobwebs everywhere but I thought it could work,” she said.

Mary and Jane pursued the use of the space with Archbishop Wilson who saw the potential and granted permission for a new staircase to be built.

The rooms were upgraded and now provide a spacious, well-lit cutting room and a separate sewing room, complete with domestic and industrial machines. The area was officially blessed by Bishop Elect Charles Gauci on August 14.

“I’m so grateful to Archbishop Wilson for the role he played in this new sewing room,” Mary said.

“I just love the space and now that we have the industrial machines there is the potential to generate money for the Cathedral by making garments for other churches.”


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