72K fabric crosses and counting: Crestwood woman’s work ‘world famous’
BY DONNA VICKROY email@example.com July 12, 2012 10:24PM
Virginia Blazeniak, 86, of Crestwood, has made 72,400 fabric crosses for local churches that are used on burial palls tat are sent for use in third world countries. | Brett Roseman~Sun-Times Media
Updated: August 14, 2012 6:10AM
Virginia Blazeniak’s handiwork has traveled all over the world.
“They told me 12 countries, plus places like Florida and Colorado,” the Crestwood grandmother said.
“I’m world famous,” she said with a chuckle, “only nobody knows me.”
In the past two years, Blazeniak has cut 72,400 religious crosses, large and small, from donated fabric.
The crosses are used by volunteers at churches across the Chicago area, as well as in other states, to decorate burial palls bound for Third World countries.
Elizabeth Wisnasky, a parishioner at St. Elizabeth Seton Church in Orland Hills, oversees the workshops at which the burial cloths are made. They take place regularly at many local churches, including St. Dennis in Lockport, St. Paul in Chicago Heights and Zion Lutheran in Tinley Park.
She describes Blazeniak as “an angel from heaven.”
The hand-decorated palls are used by churches and organizations in poverty-stricken countries to give the unclaimed dead a holy and meaningful burial, Wisnasky said.
Blazeniak said she does the work “to thank God for all I’ve got.”
A member of Incarnation Catholic Parish in Palos Heights, Blazeniak was introduced to the program through her granddaughter.
Becky Falls was a senior at Shepard High School two years ago when she began exploring ways to earn community service hours, a membership requirement for the National Honor Society. She started attending pall-making workshops at Incarnation and brought her mom, Anita Falls, and her grandmother along.
Today, Blazeniak works mostly from the basement of her raised-ranch home.
She has piles of fabric stacked on counters and tables. Nearby are eight sewing machines, flanked by rolls of colorful thread.
“Sorry it’s so messy,” she said, pointing to the neatly stacked piles of cloth crosses, which have been cut from all different kinds of fabric and come in all shapes and sizes.
“I cut out four at a time, using cardboard patterns,” she said.
She also cuts out fabric doves, angels and hearts for the burial cloth makers to use.
“I like the colorful fabric the most,” she said. “It reminds me of Haiti, where many of these palls end up.”
Blazeniak, 86, said she receives donations of fabric from friends, family and Incarnation parishioners. She can use any kind of cloth, but she prefers quilting material because it’s easiest to cut.
Blazeniak and a group of friends also bring goodies to the Arden Courts assisted living center once a month. There, they say the rosary with residents.
A widow, Blazeniak said she used to sew clothing for herself and her four children. She also used to make ice skating costumes.
“Now I cut crosses, all day,” she said with a laugh.
For information on local burial pall-making workshops, contact Elizabeth Wisnasky at (708) 614-6475.