The Little Way

This article was posted on: February 14, 2024

Immaculate Conception parishioners create and present Father Doss with a special gift

Immaculate Conception Parish in Fountain City has a Parish Council of Catholic Women (PCCW) consisting of a board of women who initiate, plan and prepare different initiatives in the parish community. Some examples of such initiatives include providing jellybeans at Easter, with each colored bean representing an element and meaning of the celebration of Easter, or serving meals that raise funds for local, national and international causes. The PCCW may also sell roses for Mother’s Day and organize clothing drives. One member noted, “We do things that may make our parish happier and a homier place, as women do in the family and their homes.”

The PCCW has a women’s quilting group as one of its adjunct ministries. This group has been meeting twice a month for more than 20 years. They tie the quilt using yarn to secure the quilt top, batting and backing into one unit, while someone else finishes the edges. The material used is donated as a gift of love on behalf of others. Jenny Schaffner, the current PCCW secretary/treasurer and its former president, became involved in early January 2020 after seeing an advertisement for the group for four to five weeks in a row. Struck by the wording and the group’s purpose, she decided to get involved and said to herself, “Well, OK, I can cut some squares.”   

A Long-Standing Tradition 

Members of the PCCW believe that no deed is done without the request of God’s blessing. The group unites in prayer, asking for God’s help to bless their work and to help them experience His mighty love. Their goal is to be His hands, embodying His heart for the recipient of the quilt. The quilts are presented to the confirmands, with this message of support and encouragement sewn into the fabric: “Welcome the gifts of the Holy Spirit into your life—wisdom, understanding, judgment, knowledge, reverence, wonder and courage. May God always be with you so you may have someone to lean on as you grow, learn and become who you are meant to be. Our best wishes from the quilting group at Immaculate Conception Parish and the Parish Council of Catholic Women (PCCW).”

It is essential to the group that the quilt is dated and labeled, so they can remember where it came from. They want to recall their confirmation, God’s plan for their lives and the support they received from the Church and its members even years from now. Jenny mentioned that when these quilts are presented, the confirmands are also given advice such as, “No one said I could, but no one said I couldn’t either.” At 75, Jenny is one of the youngest members of the quilting group, and they all have the wisdom to share that comes only with a lifetime of experience.

Ministry Expands to the Minister  

Immaculate Conception Parish is part of a parish community that also includes St. Boniface Parish in Waumandee and St. Lawrence Parish in Alma. The parish community is led by Father Aruldoss Savarimuthu, who is fondly known as “Father Doss.” He is a very personable, happy and community-minded man who is always present in the community and actively participates in his flock’s lives. Originally from India, Father Doss is a friendly and helpful guide who has been described as insightful and wise.  

In early 2022, as a quilting group meeting was about to begin in the school hall basement, Father Doss was accompanying one of the group’s founding members, Rita Pehler, down the steep stairway. Curious, he approached the group and asked, “What are these really?” The women asked Father Doss, who is originally from a hot part of India, if he would enjoy having a quilt. He eagerly affirmed that he would. The conversation did not go much further, but  “As soon as we heard the door close, the room exploded with ideas. It was positively wonderful and so much fun,” Jenny said.   

The brainstorming was intense and Jenny described the energy as a “tornado.” After many ideas and creative suggestions, they settled on an idea and began working on the project. However, they had to keep it hidden from Father Doss, so the church secretary, Connie, whose idea it was to hide the project, kept an eye out and signaled to the group if he was approaching so they could cover up the quilt.   

In the center of the quilt, there was a picture of Father Doss. The group worked tirelessly to get as many people as possible to help with the stitching, even if it was just for one thread. When Father Doss was given the quilt, he was left speechless and didn’t know how to react. He had never expected anything like that to happen, and his reaction was that of someone who had received an extravagant gift he would never have asked for, according to Jenny.   

Undeniable and Invisible Impacts  

A small project initiated by Immaculate Conception’s PCCW quilting group, inspired by their openness to the Holy Spirit, had a greater impact than they had anticipated when they began the one quilt.  The quilt was brought to a share shop in Tomah to showcase it within the Arcadia Deanery and across the diocese. The gathering in Tomah brought together PCCW groups from parishes in the La Crosse Diocese. 

Sadly, Rita, the founding member of the group and the person whose interaction with Father Doss on the stairs spurred the effort, passed away before the quilt was completed. However, her daughter, Sandy Reed, signed the quilt on her behalf posthumously, which touched Rita’s daughters and grandchildren deeply. When asked about the impact of being part of this group and project, Jenny referred to Colossians 3:23 and Psalm 100, which encourage serving the Lord with gladness and joy. The women in the group found joy in participating and praising God through their work. Father Doss’ complete gift of himself to his flock and his kindness to one woman triggered and set in motion another act of love, impacting others in families, the parish and the diocese.

Our needs, stories, small, humble gifts, abilities and sacrifices all matter. They are mysteriously and intricately interwoven, creating a complex yet cohesive whole. No act of love is wasted, and each one builds up the body, wrapping the Gospel truth in something that can be tangibly received. A priest, representing Christ, the head of the Church, holds the body of Christ together. This quilt and its compilation represent the Church and how it ought to function so beautifully. 

Jenny said of all the impacts this has had, the best influence was “to see the look of joy and pride on Father’s face. God made us to share in our heavenly Father’s joy, to receive through our giving and to love one another so the Lord’s joy may be in us and be in us completely. He is glorified and filled with joy as we become like Him in this way.”

Story by Cara Grimmer
Published in the March/April 2024 issue of Catholic Life Magazine

The names of the women who contributed to Father Doss’s quilt are:   
Rita Pehler  
Kay Duellman  
Betty Farrand  
Alice Frie  
Lois Haeuser  
Simone Heitman  
Rita Jumbeck  
Deb Kujak  
Julie Murphy  
Jenny Schaffner  
Sue Shafer  
Rita Bechly, PCCW President  
Connie Sweno

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La Crosse, WI 54601

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