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Vestment makers with the Guild of St. ClareJoseph Shaw

(LifeSiteNews) – A group of Catholic needleworkers in Great Britain continues to grow its apostolate, offering sponsorships for people to attend the Royal School of Needlework to learn to repair and make liturgical vestments in a Christ-centered community.

The Guild of St. Clare began with a devotion to the Traditional Latin Mass (TLM) and is affiliated with the Latin Mass Society of England and Wales. Together, this mission works to mend and create vestments worn by priests offering the TLM. Since its founding in 2009, the apostolate has evolved from a small group of homeschoolers learning needlework to a thriving mission of service to the Church and spiritual community.

“Originally, I started it because we just needed people to be able to mend vestments. There were all these vestments needing to be mended, and no one had the skills,” Lucy Shaw, founder of the Guild of St. Clare, said in a Zoom interview. “And that is still the case, but now it’s more about people really needing a community; people really reaching out and needing other people to keep them company in their spiritual lives.”

“The one condition that is attached to the work we do is that it has to be the priests who celebrate the traditional Mass,” she continued. “It’s very important for our spirituality, our devotional aspect of the work, that the vestments be used for the traditional Mass.”

Faced with the dilemma of not having enough people able to mend and sew traditional liturgical vestments, the Guild developed a sponsorship program which gives people an opportunity to learn the skills needed to serve. Through this initiative, accepted applicants are granted half of the tuition needed to attend the Royal School of Needlework, earning a certificate which provides the necessary expertise for vestment making and repairs.

“I didn’t realize when I started quite how fundamental this is to vestment making,” Shaw said about her experience earning the certification. “The mounting technique that you use is the same technique that you use for hand constructing vestments. There’s very little difference. Making a vestment is basically mounting – you mount the ecclisiastical fabric onto a backing, and then you put a lining on it.”

The money provided for the sponsorships is donated by private benefactors. Within the sponsorship program are certain requirements, including attendance at one of the Guild’s annual retreats. In addition to being a requirement of the sponsorship winners, the retreats are open to people of all skill levels and experience with the apostolate.

Shaw said there is work for every skill level in the vestment mission.

“Most people who volunteer are not highly skilled,” she said. “They’re people who love the Church and they want to give the Church something of value. They want to help the Church in a material way.”

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Pope Francis has issued a new decree, "Traditiones Custodes," severely restricting the celebration of the Traditional Latin Mass (TLM).

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Pope Francis' decree clamps down hard on the TLM. In it, he effectively does away with Pope Benedict's protection of it, handing bishops in every diocese the right to suppress it, while demanding new priests get permission from their bishop and the Vatican to offer the Mass of the Ages. 

As Catholics who value Tradition and know the place of the Magisterium in safeguarding the Deposit of Faith, it is time to speak up and have our voices heard

Francis has decried rigidity and intolerance for years, but now is showing intolerance and rigidity himself by forcing his very narrow understanding of liturgy on one of the true sources of good fruit in the Latin Rite of the Catholic Church.

Our Lord said that "a bad tree cannot bear good fruit", and yet we see more and more souls drawn to Christ through the TLM, with marriages dedicated to God and open to many children, and vocations also abounding in traditional seminaries, orders and priestly societies.

Indeed, the Traditional Latin Mass has been a source of unity for the Catholic Church for more than 1500 years, producing great saints, repentant sinners, and souls won for Christ across the world. *Read below how Benedict XVI decried attacks against the TLM and its adherents.

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* Pope Benedict XVI (Spirit of the Liturgy, 2000):

"For fostering a true consciousness in liturgical matters, it is also important that the proscription against the form of liturgy in valid use up to 1970 [the older Latin Mass] should be lifted. Anyone who nowadays advocates the continuing existence of this liturgy or takes part in it is treated like a leper; all tolerance ends here. There has never been anything like this in history; in doing this we are despising and proscribing the Church’s whole past. How can one trust her at present if things are that way?"

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The retreats are a combination of work, prayer, and fellowship. It is one way that the Guild maintains its commitment to the value of community, remaining in line with the very first mission of the apostolate.

In 2009, Shaw started a class among local homeschoolers which taught needlework. Then, local priests began asking her to mend vestments. Being a full-time wife and mother, Shaw commented on how difficult it is to keep such time-consuming apostolates running. She and a few friends decided to meet regularly to support each other in the work and learn how to make vestments as a community.

“A lot of people who come feel this fear, that I’m not good enough to handle these vestments; that my skills aren’t good enough and I’m not holy enough and I think that’s very undertandable,” Shaw said about beginning her work. “But in fact, the skills are so thin on the ground, that helped me overcome that. But it also made me realize that there’s a real need for more people to do it.”

Committing to the service asked of her, Shaw enrolled in the certificate program at the Royal School of Needlework to better equip herself for the work. Now, three years into the sponsorship program which provides opportunities for others to learn as she did, the Guild of St. Clare is continuing to grow and reach across the globe with its mission.

The apostolate has expanded to include four local chapters. It has also started to put out instructional videos which offer lessons for people in other parts of the world.

According to Shaw, there have been multiple messages from Americans who wish to be involved but the distance makes participation in the Guild’s mission difficult. However, she also desires to continue the outreach, saying, “Why not grow it wherever people are committed to the Mass and want to serve the Church in this way?”

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