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Rare vestments on display

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Vestments sewn by women of the Austrian court for the first Jesuits who came to Sevenhill in 1848 were displayed at St Ignatius parish, Norwood, as part of the parish’s sesquicentenary celebrations.

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The South Australian Living Artists Festival (SALA) event honoured women associated with the parish, in particular those who since the arrival of the Jesuits have expressed their faith through the simple act of using needle and thread.

The exhibition was titled ‘Faith, Women, Needle, Thread’ and comprised a collection of 20 significant embroidered ecclesiastical vestments, including 17 garments which travelled to Sevenhill with the first Jesuits in 1848.

The vestments, which came from various sources, included a variety of copes, chasubles and dalmatics made by women highly skilled in sewing and embroidery.

St Ignatius parishioner and exhibition curator Julie Tranfa said many of the garments were embellished with intricate embroidery techniques, using gold and silver thread amongst the most carefully chosen coloured silk threads.

“I wonder about the women’s experience of making and creating these beautiful garments, knowing that their finished works would make their way across the other side of the world, to a community of faith-filled people starting life anew,” she said.

“I imagine much love and devotion was held within a trunk filled with vestments.”

Julie said the exhibition was an opportunity to honour and pay respect to the past, but also to celebrate the women who continue to express their faith in action by using needle and thread.

The St Ignatius Craft Group gathers every Wednesday morning around a table filled with wool, fabric and thread.

“Around the table many things are spoken of, perhaps not much different from the conversations in a room in Austria,” Julie said.

The group began as an idea to bring women who were isolated into the company of others. They began meeting monthly, then fortnightly until it was discerned that weekly would be best.

“Beside it being an immensely pleasurable source of creativity it has forged great friendships,” she said.

“Women who were once strangers now travel together and meet socially outside the craft group.”

With so many craft items being created the group began holding a stall over two weekends a year in the parish. With the support of the parish community the group has raised more than $30,000 for Jesuit Mission.

Julie said the SALA exhibition, held over the weekend of August 23-25, was very well received and attracted almost 300 people.

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