The ladies at St. Gertrude’s Catholic Church have been in the business of making quilts for the past 31 years. They are perhaps best known for raffling off a quilt made by their quilting group each year at the Louisiana Catfish Festival.
Opal Dufrene said her mother Alverta "Tootle" Dufrene Matherne was one of the first members of the quilting club that began with eight members and was started by Mary Dufrene at the church in Des Allemands in 1981.
"Mary Dufrene from Des Allemands loved to quilt so she decided to form a quilting club to get the ladies together to quilt," Opal said. "So she did that and that’s how they got started. The different ones that liked to quilt they would get together and quilt with each other.
"I guess it is the idea that you’ve done something that’s worthwhile, something that you should be proud of, something that’s going to last a long time and you can maybe hand it down to your family."
Opal said the club began raffling off a quilt each year to thank the church for letting them use the space for their activity.
"They used to quilt in the Father Mac Center in the back of the church," Opal said. "And so one day they decided to make a quilt for the festival to give them and they did and we’ve been quilting a quilt ever since for the festival. That’s more or less how it got started."
Thirty-one years later the quilting club is still at it. Their next creation is set to be raffled on the evening of Sunday, June 24 at the close of the catfish festival. Raffle tickets will be selling for $1 each.
Opal said she’s not certain how much last year’s quilt raised for the church, but it has varied through the years.
"I remember when they first started they only made a few hundred dollars and my mother’s goal was to make $2,000." Opal said. "The year they reached $2,000 she was so excited because they had made $2,000 on that quilt, which is good because you’ve got to sell a lot of $1 tickets to make $2,000."
The club is estimated to have had over 50 members since its inception and is open to quilters as well as non-quilters who want to help out.
"We’ve had different ones over the years, gosh I don’t know how many, but different years we’ve even had ladies from the Mennonite church come help us some times," Opal said. "It was several ladies over the years and we’d quilt all day and sometimes some of the other ladies that didn’t know how to quilt they’d bring us a meal and feed us or dessert in the afternoon and they’d bring us a coffee and dessert. A lot of ladies would do that."
Opal said it takes over 1,000 hours to put each quilt together. However, in more recent years Opal said fewer people are interested in sewing and quilting.
"It’s a dying art now. Young people aren’t interested," Opal said. "My mother loved to sew and quilt and I took after my mother, but I am the only one. We were six girls and I’m the only one that did the quilting and sewing like my mother. The other girls didn’t take it up either."
At 75, Opal is still going strong and hopes to quilt as long as she can.
"I’ll do it as long as I can. Like my mother did," Opal said. "She quilted until she couldn’t see anymore. She died at the age of 97 three years ago and she quilted until she couldn’t see anymore to quilt. She loved it. She enjoyed doing it and it was a good pastime for her. It was a good pastime and it was something she really enjoyed."
Those interested in joining the St. Gertrude Catholic Church quilting club can call the church secretary at (985) 758-7542 or member Vergie "Plunk" Naquin at (985) 758-2237.