Benedictine Sisters of Pittsburgh sell their crafts to make money for ministries

Deborah Deasy
| Wednesday, July 30, 2014, 9:01 p.m.

Artfulness abounds among the Benedictine Sisters of Pittsburgh, a religious order with a mandated appreciation for creativity.

“St. Benedict encourages us to value artistic expressions,” said Sister Judith Ann Criner, 65, a registered nurse and former high school teacher who now spends her free time crocheting yarn into lightweight, colorful and adjustable necklaces.

The Benedictines will offer Criner's necklaces, plus baskets woven by Sister Donna Wojtyna, baby bibs sewn by Sister Corinne Moeller, and Pittsburgh Steelers-themed “mug rugs” needle pointed by Sister Marcia Koluder from 2 to 10 p.m. Aug. 9 in Richland Community Park as part of Richland Community Day.

“It's nice. You get to meet the people,” said Sister Judith, health care liaison for her fellow Benedictines.

The sisters also will offer their handcrafted items for donations of $1.50 to $15 from 4 to 10 p.m. daily, Aug. 18 through Aug. 23 as part an annual festival at St. Teresa of Avila Parish in Ross, and from noon to 5 p.m. Sept. 6 as part of a craft fair at St. Catherine of Sweden Roman Catholic Church in Hampton.

The sisters' inventory of handcrafts goods includes jewelry, baby items and kitchen helpers, such as knitted dish cloths, plus, decorative and therapeutic items, such as German Christmas stars and rice-filled, fabric pads that you can place in a microwave or freezer for icing or heating sore muscles and joints.

“Anything Steelers sells,” Sister Marcia said as she worked to make some more fringed, black and gold “mug rugs” for the upcoming fundraisers. The Benedictines offer Sister Marcia's needle pointed coasters for a suggested donation of $5.

For a suggested donation of $12, the sisters offer fringed scarves made of Pittsburgh Steelers-themed fleece fabric.

“Any donations are used to support the sisters and their ministries,” said Sister Evelyn Dettling, development associate and spokeswoman for the sisters' community.

In a bright room at their Richland monastery, neatly arranged boxes of yarn, ribbon, fabric and finished projects share wall space with shelves of other craft supplies.

At two big tables in the room, Sister Marcia and others regularly work on handcrafted products while silently invoking the power of God.

Sister Evelyn cited Chapter 77 of the Rule of Benedict — “The Artisans of the Monastery” — as a source of the sisters' creative handiwork. “The artisans of the monastery should practice their craft with all humility … so that in all things God may be glorified,” states the sisters' “rule book.”

Sister Judith said she began crocheting necklaces of trellis yarn after another sister found and purchased such a necklace at a parish festival.

Sister Judith then found instructions online and went into producing the same necklace in untold colors.

“I like it because it's light. You don't know it's there,” she said about the silver-colored, crocheted necklace she made and recently modeled at the monastery.

“The problem is there is very little yarn of this type available,” she said. “I've been getting it on the Internet.”

The Benedictine Sisters of Pittsburgh will offer Sister Judith's necklaces for a requested donation of $5 per necklace at the upcoming fundraisers in Richland, Ross and Hampton. For more information on the Benedictine Sisters of Pittsburgh, call 724-502-2600.

Deborah Deasy is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 724-772-6369 or

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