Swiss Benedictine Nuns Design ‘Stoles’ for Non-Clerics

by Ueli Abt

Fahr Monastery offers a new stole for female and male lay ministers. The 4-centimeter [1.5 inches] wide stole is handwoven from wool or silk, the monastery stated. The stole is attached to the top seam on the left shoulder and hangs freely down the front. According to the announcement, the new stole is a further development of the already existing “Fahr Stoles” for priests and deacons.

Sr. Matthäa of Fahr Monastery

“In Switzerland, many communities, pastoral entities, and thus also worship services are led by female and male theologians; for oftentimes there are no priests or deacons. These female and male presiders for liturgical celebrations should be recognizable at first glance,” says the announcement.

Integrating the spectrum of liturgical colors

“Customers sense the need for female and male ministers who lead services to wear a recognizable sign,” said Manuela Camichel, leader of Fahr Monastery’s vestment workshop, upon inquiry. A further need is that these worship leaders be able to integrate the liturgical colors into their apparel.

No clarifications were made as to whether the innovation is consistent with the liturgical directives. “We offer this just as our competitors do,” said Camichel. “The relevant authorities decide who wears the stole.”

Reserved to clergy

According to Gunda Brüske of the Liturgical Institute for German-speaking Switzerland, the name “stole” for the new product is particularly “touchy.” Stoles are pieces of clothing that are reserved to priests and deacons. She finds understandable the desire for a colorful marker for non-clerics. She sometimes hears from those in the field the wish that their white albs, like those of altar servers, bear elements of color of the church year. The triangular sign called a “scapular” is an another attempt, but it is not aesthetically satisfactory.

According to Brüske, unfortunately there was no prior discussion of the matter between the monastery and the Liturgical Institute.

Contact with the abbot

Within the Swiss Bishops’ Conference, Abbot Urban Federer is responsible for liturgy; at the same time, as abbot of Einsiedeln he is abbot of Fahr Monastery in a double-monastery arrangement. When asked, Einsiedeln Abbey stated that “the innovative vestment workshop of Fahr Monastery” has sought out contact with the abbot.

Concerning the most recent creation of Fahr Monastery, Abbot Urban was able to state the following: “For them the designation ‘stole’ is seen as a sort of working title, since ‘stole’ in general means a cloth that is more like a shawl than a liturgical vestment. The danger of confusion with the priestly or diaconal stole is entirely seen at Fahr. The vestment workshop is open to future discussion around an appropriate designation.”

“Decorative stripes for laity”

The vestment workshop of Fahr Monastery is not the only one to offer pieces of clothing for non-clerics. There are, for example, a so-called “decorative stripes for laity” from the vestment maker Heimgartner in Wil, St. Gall canton. These are secured with snap fasteners, so that the stripes can be changed according to the liturgical colors.

Translated and reprinted with kind permission of kath.ch katholisches medienzentrum. The original post is found here.

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