Four decades of mending altar clothes

By Jeff Kurowski | The Compass | March 4, 2015

Jerovetz said ‘yes’ to a call for help and never looked back

[vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]MONTPELIER — For Stella Jerovetz, the parish for which she has been a member for 67 years will always be St. Joseph, Pilsen. Area parishes, including St. Joseph, were merged and linked in the late 1990s and 2000. St. Joseph Church is now known as St. Joseph-St. John Church, one of three worship sites of St. Therese Parish, Stangelville. St. John Church, Krok, was closed in 1997.

Your Catholic Neighbor: Stella Jerovetz (Jeff Kurowski | The Compass)
Your Catholic Neighbor: Stella Jerovetz (Jeff Kurowski | The Compass)

“The parish office is in Denmark, so it’s always called Denmark or it’s always Stangelville,” said Jerovetz. “We are St. Joseph, Pilsen, in the town of Montpelier. St. Joseph is still Pilsen. It’s still on Highway 29.”

Jerovetz has spent plenty of time in the church. The past 44 years, she has made and cared for the altar linens. She was a religious education teacher at the time of her invitation from Fr. John Johanek, pastor at St. Joseph.

“We took a trip to the store to pick out some fabric to sew,” explained Jerovetz. “I’ve been doing it ever since. Every altar cloth in that church, I made. They are not fancy altar cloths. I washed and ironed them. I made them for all the seasons; purple for Advent, red and green for ordinary time. People would say, ‘I don’t know how you keep track.’ I learned. The purificator is the hardest for washing. I can’t iron anymore. I have tears in my shoulders. Ironing and folding are not easy anymore.”

Health issues caused Jerovetz to recently retire from altar linen care. In April, she would have marked 45 years.

“When Fr. John asked me, our son (Steve) was 4 years old,” she said. “I managed to find the time. Fr. John asked me to do it because he said it was too expensive to send the altar linens to the cleaners. Then he asked me to do all the decorating in the church, so I started with that, too.”

Decorating became a team effort. Her daughter, Nancy Jisa, and daughter-in-law, Cindy Jerovetz, joined her.

“They were so good at it,” said Stella. “They made everything. They never bought any wreaths. They helped me all those years when they both had full-time jobs. We never took any money for anything. Why not give back? The church is for you.”

Stella, who would visit other churches for decorating ideas, started a flower fund where parish members could honor the memory of a loved one. The fund raised money for flowers and decorating.

Service has always been a way of life for Stella and her family. She points to her oldest son, Paul, as an example. He did computer wiring work in the rectory. Both sons served as ushers and Nancy was a parish trustee.

Stella’s late husband, Clarence, who died in 2009, was also dedicated to serving the church. He assisted with the building of a new front entrance at St. Joseph in 1957.

“He would take off of work to work at the church,” said Stella. “I remember when he had to go to De Pere to get shingles for the roofing. (The De Pere company) sent him to Milwaukee. He and another guy took our little pickup truck to get all the roofing. The truck was really weighted down. He said that he drove 20 miles per hour on the way home.”

Clarence worked for Leicht Transfer and Storage of Green Bay and the family also operated a 120-acre farm.

“Believe me, I was a farmer,” said Stella. “I did field work. I did everything. Clarence worked on the boats. He would go to work at 7 a.m. and get home at 10 p.m. We never hired help. We had our own machinery. We had 34 cows. I chopped corn.”

Clarence lived his entire life in the same house. The home has been in the Jerovetz family for 95 years.

Stella, who was baptized at the former Ss. Cyril and Methodius Church in Eaton, balanced her time to help the church any way possible. She was a member of the rosary society and served as treasurer of the Kewaunee County Diocesan Council of Catholic Women. She also put her baking and cooking talents to good use.

“I donated food for every funeral,” she said. “I donated to the bake sales and we would go to the retired priest dinners and would always bring food. I always made peanut squares for the bake sales.”

In 1995, when Fr. Mike Ingold was serving at the parish, Stella tackled a couple church improvement projects in addition to her other volunteer ministries. Together, they painted the rectory, which was converted to office space.

“I worked a lot with Fr. Mike,” said Stella, who has eight grandchildren and 15 great-grandchildren. “He was looking around the basement of the church and there was an old dining room set with chairs. He knew that I did varnishing, so he asked me if I could restore the chairs. They are antiques. They had the claw feet and were mahogany. I varnished them and upholstered them. They are still in the sanctuary today.”

Stella, who will turn 88 this month, is thankful for her opportunities to serve. She credits her parents for setting an example of giving and wanted to pass that on to her children. In honor of her years caring for the altar linens, she said that money will be donated for new linens when she dies.

“I always thought I would die in church doing it,” she said with a laugh. “I’m glad that I did it.”[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column width=”1/1″][vc_message color=”alert-info” style=”rounded”]Your Catholic Neighbor

Name: Stella Jerovetz

Parish: St. Joseph, Pilsen (St. Therese de Lisieux, Stangelville)

Age: 87

Favorite saint: Blessed Mother[/vc_message][/vc_column][/vc_row]

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