Student sews costumes for school’s Monk Day

NORTH SHELBY – Katie Griffith toiled day after day sewing 48 monk costumes—not as penance but to help those associated with Westminster School at Oak Mountain’s annual Monk Day.

Griffith, a senior at Westminster who remembers Monk Day from her time as a fourth grader, took on the project as part of her effort to earn a Girl Scouts Gold Award, the highest achievement within the organization.

“I love the Lower School teachers,” Griffith said. “A lot of them have been there since I was a Lower School student. I wanted to serve them, and I also have a heart for children.

“I remember when I was a monk and my mom had to sew the costume. It can be really difficult for people who aren’t familiar with sewing. I really wanted to take a load off for them.”

Griffith needed pre-approval from Girl Scouts for the project and will present the results as part of the process of earning the Gold Award.

The project required at least 100 hours of work.

She worked on the project for about a year, she estimates, including planning, with most of the actual sewing being completed the four weeks leading up to Monk Day on Thursday, Sept. 14.

Before that, Griffith located a pattern and ordered about 100 yards brown fabric and ropes for belts.

“I just learned how to sew, so this was my first opportunity to practice,” she said. “It worked out really well. Of course, my school work comes first, but the costumes took priority over lots of things in my life.”

Westminster fourth graders celebrate Monk Day as part of their studies of St. Benedict and monasticism, which includes lessons about Medieval monks and manuscripts.

As part of their art curriculum, the students choose a favorite Bible verse and create an illuminated letter, which is the highly stylized script seen in manuscripts, with quill and ink on parchment.

The students wear habits on Monk Day, perform manual labor (light cleaning), listen to Gregorian chants and eat a meal of plain bread, cheese, water and grape juice in silence, fourth grade teacher Sarah Brannan said.

“They would often eat in silence to meditate,” Brannan said. “It’s just for them to experience what we’ve been talking about.”

The students also visited the Shrine of the Most Blessed Sacrament, a monastery in Hanceville.

The costumes should last for several years, saving Westminster parents the trouble of producing their own. Westminster caps class sizes at 16 students, and there are three fourth grade classes, which is how Griffith decided on 48 costumes.

The costumes are one-size-fits-all, but the rope belts help with the fit.

Griffith said she is considering studying fashion design in college. Her work has already been recognized with Superior ratings, the highest score possible, through the Walter Trumbauer Festival, which provides training and performance opportunities for Alabama theatre students.

“It’s definitely something I’m interested in,” she said. “I’ve always loved fashion.”

Visit ShelbyCountyPhotos.com to view and purchase photos from Monk Day.