ALLOUEZ — “I’m definitely not a beige person. That’s absolutely a good way to describe me. … I definitely like color,” agreed Marian Weilert Sauvey as she talked over her many creative hobbies that include sewing, floral design, home decorating and painting.
Among the most meaningful projects she has taken on is the making of chasubles for priests, both at Resurrection Parish in Allouez and Holy Rosary Parish in Evansville, Ind.
A chasuble is the outermost vestment worn by priests at Mass. The most distinctive one Sauvey has ever made is the one Fr. Tom Reynebeau, pastor of Resurrection parish, will wear for Palm Sunday Masses April 9-10. The chasuble was inspired by the famous red chasuble designed by French artist Henri Matisse.
Sauvey was inspired to make the chasuble during a spring 2015 trip she and her husband, David, made to Europe. While in Rome, they visited the Vatican Museums and its modern art wing exhibit which includes Matisse’s work done from 1947 to 1951 for the Dominican sisters at the small Chapel of the Rosary in Vence on the French Riviera. Renowned for his use of color, he designed the windows, decorations, crucifix and priestly vestments which included five chasubles.
Then-Vatican Museums director Antonio Paolucci said in 2012 that Matisse (1869-1954) considered the chapel his masterpiece. In 2022, the Vatican Museums exhibit marks its 10th anniversary.
“It’s an interesting place to see,” said Sauvey. “I was just struck by this one vestment. … I saw the red one,” she said.
Both she and her husband are attorneys. A Kansas native, she met David, a Green Bay native, at the Jesuit’s Rockhurst University in Kansas City, Mo.
She retired in June 2015 from her position as a corporate attorney at Atlas Van Lines, headquartered in Evansville, Ind. When they retired in 2015, they moved back to Green Bay, where they had lived from 1984 to 1993. They also returned to Resurrection Parish and Sauvey was a corporate attorney for Schneider National.
In 2016, Sauvey approached then Resurrection pastor, Norbertine Fr. Tim Shillcox, with a photo of the red Matisse chasuble. “Would you wear this if I made it?” she recalled asking him.
So how did she go about making the Matisse-inspired chasuble?
“I had the picture and I … just kind of drew it on graph paper,” she said. Chasubles are “easy” to make, she said, but this one “took a couple of weeks at least. There’s a lot of pieces — everything is applied.” Against the red backdrop of the chasuble are appliques of black crosses and gold accents.
“It was just an interesting project and I think it turned out really dramatic,” Sauvey said. Palm Sunday and Pentecost “are the only official ‘red days’ on the (church) calendar,” she noted, adding that this chasuble “is so meaningful for Palm Sunday.” She also made a coordinating vestment called a “dalmatic” for a deacon. It is also red, but with far less appliques.
Sauvey has also made three other sets of vestments for Resurrection Parish — in white, green and purple. The Women’s Guild paid for the green and purple vestments, she said.
In addition, she has sewn for “Christmas Stars,” the annual show at Xavier High School in Appleton. Her sister-in-law, Susan Hahn, is assistant director and production manager, and invited her to help.
“The first three years we were here, we redid all the entourages of the three kings. … At the end, they pull down the kings’ capes and I made all of those (18-foot) capes,” she said. She also made a giant caterpillar for the show.
The Sauveys have been married for 45 years and have four children: Gretchen works in Washington, D.C., for the U.S. Institute of Peace; Peter works for Netflix doing special effects — he and his wif,e Lacey Westphal, are expecting their first child in May and live in Los Angeles; Carl, who lives in Indianapolis, works in insurance; and Philip, who lives in Milwaukee, works for Rockwell Automation.
The couple do many parish activities together. “I couldn’t do half of what I do without him,” Sauvey said of her husband, noting they also enjoy outdoor activities, like hiking.
Both sing in the Praise Choir. In addition, “We do flowers for weddings,” she said. She obtained her wholesale flower license and, since 2017, they’ve done 10 weddings. “We have two this year,” she said, including the Resurrection choir director’s wedding.
They also took on the project of redecorating the “industrial” beige restrooms in the parish gathering space that now feature cheerful colors and whimsical designs.
The rectory hadn’t been redecorated in years, and they pitched in on that, as well as redecorating the parish’s family room, which is used by brides and families during funerals. She is also secretary of the Women’s Guild, which will once again host its “Spring Fete” for women beginning at 11 a.m. on Saturday, April 23.
“It’s mostly just to get people back together … and my husband and I are cooking for it,” said Sauvey, who has catered for large events of up to 1,500 people. Tickets will be available for 144 reservations.
Sauvey is also coordinator of the Resurrection Hilltoppers, a monthly adult enrichment group for people age 55 and over, and she knits for the parish prayer shawl and baby blanket ministry. She is also a Brownie leader at Red Smith School in Green Bay and has volunteered with Afghan refugees through Catholic Charities. Before the COVID-19 pandemic, she was also a volunteer tutor for Literacy Green Bay for four years.
“I try to pray through what I do,” said Sauvey, explaining, “In my retirement, I kind of decided to use my organizational skills … and my creative skills to help other people. I feel I have an obligation to use my talents. They say that for those much has been given, much is required.”
Your Catholic Neighbor
Name: Marian Weilert Sauvey
Parish: Resurrection, Allouez
Favorite Saint: Blessed Virgin Mary
Favorite Saying: “Do a good turn daily.” — the Girl Scouts’ slogan