Vestments and Linens
The Altar Project
“I will go unto the Altar of God, even unto the God of my joy and gladness”
.....the opening words of the Prayers of Preparation......
Keeping the Altar of the Lord as beautiful as it should be is a real labour of love, and one that it absolutely necessary, as our churches are to be a reflection of the beauty of the heavenly realm.
Ordinary parishes, especially those in very poor rural areas, struggle to acquire decent linens for altar clothes, as well as the small linens required for the Holy Mass. This is a particularly real issue in our Southern African region, where parishes are widespread and far from any urban centres. In countries such as Zimbabwe and Mozambique, quality altar linens and the accompanying equipment are completely unavailable. We took the decision to ensure that every parish would be fully equipped to function, from the poorest to the most prosperous, and so our Altar Project was launched. The aim was the standardising of all the altars and credence table vessels and allowing our poor rural parishes to have exactly the same quantity and quality of linens as the larger city parishes. No small task!
We purchased machinery and set to work, making Corporals, Lavabo Towels, Purificators, Chalice Palls, and other linens such as Altar Clothes, using the finest linen and with each beautifully embroidered as an offering suitable for service at the Holy Altar of the Lord. Nothing was asked of the parishes – it has been a gift from the Diocese, and so the poorest were not in any way disadvantaged. Each parish received an “Altar Pack”.
The Altar Packs were packed into robust plastic carrier bags, for many of the churches are ‘mobile’ and the clergy have to travel by public taxi.
Each Altar Pack comprises of:
• Two x Chalice Pall
• Four x Purificator
• Two x Corporals
• Four x Lavabo Towels
• 300 people’s wafers
• 30 x Priests wafers
• Some rolls of charcoal
• A bottle of incense
• Lavabo Jug and Bowl
• Two small cruets
• One large Wine decanter and a bottle of communion wine.
The ‘pack’ is determined by the size of the parish and the number of chalices used in the Mass.
It is a wonderful gift to any parish!
Our Altar Project has equipped more than 30 parishes throughout Southern Africa. We have many still to do, and as the Bishop travels throughout the Diocese, the remaining parishes and outstations are given their Altar Packs.
Download PDF including photographs here.
The Stoles Project
From the Vesting Prayers before Mass:
Give me again, O Lord, the stole of immortality, which I lost by the transgression of my first parents, and although I am unworthy to come unto Thy Holy Sacrament, grant that I may attain everlasting felicity.
O Lord, who hast said, My yolk is easy, and My burden is light, grant that I may so bear it, as to attain Thy grace. Amen.
At his Ordination, each Deacon receives a set of stoles, one for each of the seasons of the Church Year. The Red Stole is for Pentecost and Martyr’s days, the Green is for Trinity Season, the Purple for Requiem Masses, Lent and Advent and the White for All Saints, Easter, Christmas and other great Feasts. Priests receive a full set of vestments, which would include chasuble, at their Ordination. The equipping of our Deacons and Priests in Southern Africa is a major exercise. The men come from areas a great distance apart, and some are from areas miles from any city centre worth mentioning. They have no access to anything remotely like a religious shop, and so the church has to do all this work. As with the Altar Project, the aim has been to standardise all our clergy, and enable the poorest to stand beside a man from a more affluent parish and not be distinguishable because of his appearance.
Once the project got under way, we realised that it was not only stoles that were needed, but as with the Altar Packs, it was the whole package! Many of the candidates literally had nothing – and so we began!
Cassocks and cottas:
This required making a pattern that was easy and yet correct. We will also shortly begin to make red servers cassocks.
Alb, Amice and Girdle:
These are used by every clergyman, and so, once again, we drew up a pattern and made amices exactly according to the book. Girdles have also been made and supplied to all the clergy.
The Stoles have been given to all the clergy. There has been no cost to them. It has been a decision by the Diocese to equip every man as best as possible. Whenever the Bishop leaves for an Ordination, he takes with him sufficient to equip those to be Ordained and a few extra for those who need them!
In one case, stoles were provided to five Zambian Deacons given to them at their Ordination by the Bishop. These are men out of a rural area with no access to liturgical garments. In Zimbabwe, the scene was similar. Five Deacons and two Priests needed to be equipped, and together with the stoles and chasubles, five parishes received Altar Packs.
Why would we do all this work? Here is a story for you.
Stephen Chidza baked 40,000 bricks for his church building, making them from the very ground on which the church would stand. The community is very poor, and on the day of the visit by the Bishop, there were two coins in the collection – can you imagine what that must have cost the giver?
Stephen is the spiritual leader of his community, and he and his young family lead the church. He has some young men to support him and the village elders are also very involved. On the day of his being made a Deacon, Stephen Chidza walked the 40 kms to the Mozambique/Zimbabwe border and then the 20kms to Mutare, the town where the Ordinantion would be taking place. The Bishop had asked that all ordinands be present by 10h00, and when he and the Vicar General arrived at 09h00, Stephen Chidza was quietly waiting!
After the Ordination, The Bishop took him back to the border, but he insisted on walking the rest of the way home. What humility and dedication! How many of our city folk would do such a thing? What a privilege to be able to equip such a young man for ministry! And so the work grows and the beautifying of the House of the Lord is slowly but surely achieved. We seek the best for our people, and for the Lord, in the worship of Jesus Christ our Saviour.
Download PDF including photographs here.