that keeps kids warm
On the top floor of the Monastery of St. Gertrude, at a forties-era Singer sewing machine that is in front of a window overlooking the Camas Prairie, Sister Placida Wemhoff sews clothes for underprivileged children. Twice a year – winter and summer – she sends her handmade creations to parish relief projects and sometimes to international programs as far as Africa and Central America.
Recently, the third-floor board room was filled with vest-and-pants outfits, long-sleeved shirts, coats and more. Before sending out the clothes, Sister Placida lays them out for everyone to see. “I used to just send them out,” she says, “but then people were coming to me and saying, ‘I didn’t get to see them!’”
She learned to sew on a treadle machine when she was a candidate in her early teens. Now, she says she still prefers a classic Singer to new machines. “These were made to last forever,” she says. Her sewing work is in addition to her other ministries as a bookbinder and full-time Maintenance Manager.
Sewing clothes for underprivileged children is a long-standing tradition in the Monastery. With each generation, there has been at least one Sister who has focused on this ministry.
Sister Placida became more active in sewing after the Sisters ceased wearing habits and she needed clothes to wear to her teaching job. When she retired from teaching and became the Monastery Maintenance Manager, she found she had the time during the cold season. The recovery required for a recent foot injury has also given more time for sewing.
While she sews, Sister Placida imagines that perhaps in heaven, she will one day meet the children who received her work. “I pray for the kids that will wear my clothes,” she says, “that the clothes will help and their lives won’t be too hard.”