Sister preps packages for pilgrims
By Katherine Long
Sun associate editor
Sister Antonia Legnetto, OSF, has everything squared away — literally.
In August, Sister Antonia began hand-assembling packages for pilgrims who will travel to Rome in October to witness the canonization of Bl. Marianne Cope. That assembly included folding and ironing 500 custom Saint Marianne Cope scarves into perfect 10.5” by 10.5” squares, all by herself.
Laughing off the good-natured ribbing of her fellow sisters who said she is “a little fussy,” Sister Antonia said she didn’t mind working alone, because she wanted everything to be perfect.
“I think other sisters would [be as precise] too, but I wanted to see it through. It’s been a pleasure,” she said.
The scarves are the centerpieces of the pilgrims’ packages. A crisp white, they feature a graphic of the soon-to-be saint and a scrolling border depicting the dove of the Holy Spirit in vibrant blue. The Sisters of St. Francis of the Neumann Communities are inviting pilgrims to wear the scarves in St. Peter’s Square at the Oct. 21 canonization Mass and at other special events.
Sister Antonia said she started designing the scarves with the local and “extremely helpful and cooperative” Holy Shirt! apparel company in March. Co-owner John Groat helped conceive the Holy Spirit design, she added. The design and color scheme coordinates with the blue jackets Sister Helen Hofmann, OSF, made available to those traveling to Rome with the Sisters’ pilgrimage, which were also produced by Holy Shirt! After many scarf samples, shared with Sister Grace Anne Dillenschneider, OSF, Vice Postulator of Bl. Marianne’s cause for the Diocese of Syracuse, the final products were delivered around Aug. 1.
“I gave myself a deadline of Aug. 31 to get them all folded and ironed,” Sister Antonia said. Little by little, at the ironing board in her bedroom, Sister Antonia built up a pile of finished scarves, making sure to cover it so the scarves didn’t get dusty. “On the night of Aug. 31, I finished the last one,” she said.
From there, the operation moved down to the dining room table. But first came the quest to find bags that would be large enough to accommodate the scarves yet small enough to keep them from shifting around. After hunting through dollar and grocery stores, Sister Antonia finally found plastic bags at Wegmans that fit the scarves precisely. “There are no coincidences,” she said with a smile.
In the early morning hours, during free moments after returning home from her ministry at the Pius X retirement home and in the hours before bed, Sister Antonia worked on the bags in batches of 10. She placed a scarf (“All facing the same way”), a card with instructions for wearing the scarf and a pin of Mother Marianne in each bag, sealing it with a single piece of carefully applied tape. In a little over two weeks, all 500 packages were complete.
Sister Antonia has delivered the packages to representatives of the pilgrimage groups being led by Bishop Robert J. Cunningham, the Sisters of St. Francis and the Franciscan Church of the Assumption in Syracuse. (They will also be distributed to a group of pilgrims coming from Bl. Marianne’s birthplace in Germany, complete with German-language instruction card.) Pilgrims on Bishop Cunningham’s trip were thrilled to receive their packages at a meeting on Sept. 23.
Sister Antonia said she can just imagine what a sea of pilgrims sporting the scarves would look like. If worn as directed — folded in a triangle and secured at the neck with the pin — Bl. Marianne’s image will be visible from the front and the back. “There will be no mistaking who the group is there for!” she said.
And it turns out that Sister Antonia will be a part of that sea herself. She said she entered her name in the lottery to join the Sisters’ pilgrimage out of respect for Mother Marianne, but having lived in Italy previously and having attended Bl. Marianne’s beatification in 2005, she “prayed that the sisters who had never been to an occasion like that would get to go,” she said. That’s just what happened — but about three weeks ago, a sister had to drop out. Sister Antonia’s name was drawn to replace her. “I’ve been thinking about the trip every day since then!” she said.
“The truth is, I never thought I’d see this day in our lifetime,” she continued. “[As a former school teacher and principal] I taught about her for so many years, and I watched Sister Mary Lawrence [Hanley, OSF, former postulator who passed away in December] work untiringly for so long… To have this happen in my lifetime, it gives me chills.”