Embroideries in a Cornfield?

by Connie Lynn Borserine
Originally Published Spring 2004

This year, two groups of NAN Assembly attendees were privileged to take a bus trip to Clyde, Missouri, (one hour and forty-five minutes Northeast of Kansas City) to visit the Monastery of the Benedictine Sisters of Perpetual Adoration. And what did they find at the end of their ride into the farmfields of Missouri? They discovered a beautiful Church filled with gleaming mosaics, the warmth of carved wood and the sparkle of stained glass windows from Austria.

But beyond the exceptional Chapel and beyond the large collection of 550 documented relies, our ladies were allowed to view and photograph, in glass cases and some 20 pullout study drawers, some of the finest examples of late 19th and early 20th century Ecclesiastical Embroidery found anywhere in the world!

In 1875, five young nuns and their Mother Superior traveled from Mania Rickenbach in the Swiss Alps (above Lucerne) to Clyde, Missouri to minister to the German immigrant population. They opened an Academy and taught and also ran an orphanage and a farm. But one of their other achievements was the making of liturgical vestments and altar accoutrements upon which were stitched the most intricate needlework.

Beautiful colors of silk threads were skillfully blended within the flowers and borders. Discussions are still ongoing regarding the stitch used to interpret the lamb’s wool coat. If only we could have seen the underside! But by far, the most amazing stitching of all was done in the faces. Silk, metals and metallic threads were stitched with the highest artistry to express sorrow, peace or joy. The faces were truly alive – almost photographic in their rendering. The tiny angels’ faces, each with their own unique personality, were done in surface work that was exquisite and unforgettable. We all visited their angelic visages again and again. The nuns were blessed with incredible skill and passed their teaching on to others who came to join their Order through the years. We were truly awed by this amazing collection! At a future Assembly we will arrange another visit to the Monastery so more NAN members can see these remarkable embroideries.