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PATCHWORK QUILTS TELL A TALE OF DIVERSITY

It started out as a middle-of-the-night inspiration but has been transformed into four giant patchwork quilts designed to reflect the diversity of the Buffalo Catholic Diocese 150 years after its founding.

Representing hundreds of hours of work, the quilts will be displayed during the Diocesan Sesquicentennial Mass at noon Oct. 25 in Marine Midland Arena. The Mass is free but tickets, which are available at every parish in the diocese, are required for admission.

Following the Mass, the quilts will travel from parish to parish.

"The original plan was to make one huge quilt, but we decided that it would be too cumbersome," said Patricia Szalkowski of Amherst, who came up with the idea more than a year ago.

"Having four quilts will make it possible to send them from parish to parish so that each parish will see all the parts that make up the diocese," added Bernadette Heins, another member of the quilt-making team.

The quilts are made of 12-inch squares, one for nearly all the 266 parishes and 10 mission churches in the eight-county diocese. Three will measure approximately 9 by 11 feet when the border is added. The fourth will be about 8 by 11 feet.

A center panel in each quilt proclaims: Diocese of Buffalo, 1847-1997, 150 years. It also contains the diocesan coat of arms and a map of the diocese with highlighting to indicate the vicariates represented in the particular quilt.

The squares, made by one or more members of each parish or mission, range from simple to elaborate. A few consist merely of lettering and perhaps a decoration or two -- a cross, flower or other religious symbol -- to identify the parish and its location.

But most aspire to be works of art.

For instance, St. Peter's, Lewiston, is represented by the image of a fisherman clutching golden nets overflowing with fish.

The square contributed by St. Teresa of the Infant Jesus, Niagara Falls, is decorated with tiny cloth roses, the flower associated with the saint.

St. Gregory the Great, Amherst, is represented by an image of the saint wearing a red cape and holding two pages of Gregorian-chant.

Many of the squares contain a representation of the parish church, some presented with simple sketches and others executed in great detail.

Fourteen Holy Helpers, Gardenville, sent a square with padded images of the church building and all 14 of the Holy Helpers, saints who are believed to be able to obtain cures for many ailments.

The woman who made the patch for St. Cecilia's, Oakfield, included an inconspicuous memorial to her granddaughter. Her design features a square cross surrounded by two flowers, a butterfly and a snowflake and almost hidden in a corner, a tiny heart and the name "Katie," a tribute to a little girl who died.

Mrs. Szalkowski literally dreamed up the quilt plan after hearing at a meeting at her parish, St. Gregory the Great, that exhibit ideas were needed. "I woke up one night in the middle of the night thinking about a quilt," she said. "Petronilla Amantia liked the idea and said to go ahead and do it." Mrs. Amantia is a St. Gregory's parishioner who heads the committee responsible for exhibits at the Sesquicentennial Mass.

Besides Mrs. Szalkowski and Mrs. Heins, the quilt task force includes St. Gregory parishioners Nanette Frey, Bertha Napoli, Virginia Ingold and Maureen Zambon and Noreen Visone of Nativity Parish, Harris Hill.

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