By Dan Russo
DECORAH — Members of the Archdiocesan Council of Catholic Women (ACCW) have been helping protect clergy and the people they serve from COVID-19 by making masks for every priest and seminarian.
Father Daniel Knipper of Decorah, the ACCW’s spiritual advisor, initially approached professional seamstress Julie Vulk with the idea. Vulk, also from Decorah, then contacted Florine Swanson, the ACCW’s president, who recruited organization members from across the archdiocese for the project.
Since then, the women have been busy crafting dozens upon dozens of masks, including a purple and yellow one for Archbishop Michael Jackels himself, with the goal of completing the initiative during the month of April.
“It has been exciting to watch this project come together from a concept to making sure 101 priests living in the archdiocese has at least one and in some cases two masks and all carried it out in the two weeks of Holy Week and Easter Week,” reflected Swanson in an email to The Witness. “It reminds me of historical materials I came across that told how ACCW members pulled together during World War II to make gauze compresses, rolled bandages, and hospital shirts. When the need is great, everyone rolls up their sleeves and makes it happen.”
A massive team has stepped up to accomplish the goal, according to Swanson.
“Various leaders took responsibility throughout the archdiocese,” she said.
Swanson reported: “Monica Staudt of Clarion provided more than one mask for her priest of Holy Family Cluster. Yvonne Kish of Charles City made sure every priest in the New Hampton Deanery received a mask. Mary Rausch of Fort Atkinson made sure every priest in the Decorah Deanery was covered. In the Cedar Rapids Deanery, Susan Martinek, the Service Commission Director of ACCW, made masks for all of the priests in her Deanery and Alma Meyer, past ACCW President from Marion mailed them. Kim Timp from Dubuque made numerous face masks for priests in the Dubuque Deanery, including the retired priests who reside at Villa Raphael. Ann Kunst of Clear Lake arranged for face masks for many of the priests in the Mason City Deanery. Marty Doerning of Webster City made masks for all of the staff at St. Thomas Aquinas. Monica Foulton of Marshalltown facilitated getting masks for the Marshalltown Deanery and Karol Digmann of Worthington coordinated masks for the Dyersville Deanery.”
Different types of masks were made and hundreds were distributed, with medical personnel also benefiting from the effort, the president said.
“ACCW members are well known for making quilts, so cotton fabric was readily available in many parishes,” Swanson stated. “Some face masks were made with elastic bands, others were made with ties when elastic was no longer available. Some were bright colors, other more conservative. Patterns were readily available online. Some members made one or two. Others made 100’s, not just for priests but also for their local hospitals.”
Sue Martinek, ACCW service commission chair, made masks for all of the priests in the Cedar Rapids Deanery. (Contributed photo)