Intercom Feature Article
For the Girls of the World
By Carolyn Kesterman, Communications intern
S. Anita Parks began the sewing project for the Lingap Children’s Center six years ago.
With a piece of fabric depicting the continents of the world spread on the table, S. Anita Parks leads a group of girls and women at St. Martha Parish in Okemos, Michigan, in prayer, asking that the girls of the world may “have the opportunity to believe in themselves.” They have been offering up this prayer since S. Anita formed their service project six years ago – sewing sundresses for the wards of the Lingap Children’s Center in Cebu, Philippines. “The most beautiful part of this evolving project is the step-by-step direction of the Holy Spirit,” S. Anita says.
S. Anita, who is celebrating her Golden Jubilee this year, began her ministry teaching high school home economics. After several years teaching preschool, 18 of those years at St. Martha School, she transitioned to parish ministry and returned unexpectedly to her earlier home economics skills when she was going through her mother’s large amount of fabric and was inspired with the idea of bringing together women of the parish to create sundresses for girls in need. As interest grew, one of the women said that she wanted her Girl Scout troop to learn to sew and be involved in the ministry. The girls, who ranged from fifth to eighth graders at St. Martha’s and the nearby public school, began meeting with S. Anita and the women of the parish after school, beginning a project that has lasted six years.
Girl Scouts partnered with St. Martha Parish to sew sundresses for the wards of the Lingap Children’s Center in Cebu, Philippines.
The decision to send the sundresses to the Lingap Children’s Center developed after the leader of the Girl Scout troop recalled the visits that John and Judy Drake, the founders of Lingap, had made to St. Martha’s in the past to share their experiences. The Drakes, who live nearby in Jackson, Michigan, thought it was a wonderful idea. “It warms my heart how, through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, we have all joined together,” Judy Drake says.
S. Anita is thankful for how close the relationship between their group and the Drakes is. “It has been a real faith blessing to get to know the Drakes and to have them ship our dresses – about 100 every year – to the Philippines,” S. Anita says. Sister and her group are always ready to meet the needs expressed by the Drakes, including making 100 pillowcases to replace the center’s worn ones. The group has also taken on extra projects to help their nearby community, making quilts for a homeless shelter.
Approximately 100 dresses are shipped every year to the children in the Philippines.
The blessings of the ministry are manifold as the sundresses not only benefit the girls of Lingap, but also the girls and women of St. Martha’s. “One day, the physical education teacher mentioned how some of the girls were not the most outgoing, popular ones, but that this was giving them a chance ‘to believe in themselves.’” S. Anita was surprised by the teacher’s choice of words. An opportunity to believe in themselves was exactly what the group prayed that the girls of the world might have in their daily prayer. “I realized that learning this skill and doing something for others is ‘a prayer in action’ for these girls.”
The women of the parish are also learning. “One lady asked me, ‘Am I too old to learn to sew?’ No, indeed not! Through her tentative beginnings, her confidence and skills grew, and now she, too, enjoys teaching and encouraging the girls to do their best.”
S. Anita has a stack of nearly 50 prayer cards with the names of the girls and women who have participated in the project over the years. “I keep the papers as a wonderful remembrance of all who came just once or many times to participate in using their talents as a blessing for someone else,” S. Anita says. “Keeping the stack of prayer papers is my prayer of gratitude for this ministry.”