Showcasing One of the Largest Vestment Collections in the United States

One of the largest and most impressive parochial collections of antique vestments in the US is kept at the church of Saint Agnes in St. Paul, Minnesota.  By the time the 1960s came around, a great many beautiful and elaborate vestments were being discarded in the name of change and modernity.  Those years were a tipping point, a time of tumult when many sacristies were emptied and beautiful vestments were purged.  The future felt uncertain.  Fortunately, some pastors kept their cool.      

Monsignor Richard Schuler became pastor of the church of St. Agnes in 1969.  The timing was perfect. His sacristy became a refuge for unwanted vestments.  Amid the storm of revolution he was named pastor at a pivotal moment.  A portion of the vestment collection at Saint Agnes was saved the following year in 1970 when the local diocesan minor seminary was closed.  Msgr. Schuler had taught Latin and Music there after his ordination in 1945.  

The lion's share of the vestments at St. Agnes came originally from the E.M. Lohmann Company of St. Paul.  For generations Lohmann's supplied local clergy with vestments, some made in their downtown St. Paul studio and others made in France.  

These antique vestments are important because they represent a time when vestment making reached its highest aspirations in art and culture, a pinnacle of quality and design.  The rich materials and hand-crafted embroideries are a rare sight in North America.  Apathy sets in as we begin to realize that little we come up with today will approach the glory seen in these old vestments that were made for service at the altar in the early twentieth century.  Thankfully, the vestments at St. Agnes have been beautifully preserved.        

A dedicated teacher and parishioner of St. Agnes, Neal Abbott, also happens to be an extremely gifted photographer and videographer.  As a flourishing business on the side he operates Neal Abbott Photography.  His website showcases an impressive collection of his "Catholic" work that can be seen here.  Neal has produced excellent videos for the parish YouTube channel for a series entitled The Sacristy.  This excellent production gives viewers a rare glimpse of the Saint Agnes sacristy along with informative explanations given by the current pastor, our good friend Fr. Mark Moriarty.  

Neal writes of the series:

The Sacristy. In this catechetical video series from the Church of Saint Agnes, our pastor, Fr. Mark Moriarty, will walk viewers through the deep liturgical tradition of the Church and Her Roman Rite. He will cover everything from sacred vessels to sacred art, sacred music to—as depicted in these stills from the first few videos—liturgical vestments, and much more. Watch for this series to be published over the next several months on our YouTube channel, social media accounts, and our website.

Neal has also produced another interesting video on how the Saint Agnes altar breads are prepared by volunteers of the parish in the basement of the old parish convent, chronicling a tradition that has been maintained at the parish since its founding in the late 1800s.  The video is fascinating and can be seen here.  Neal has a great ministry and I hope readers will support his fine work.  The premier of his excellent Vestments Part I: the Chasuble, Dalmatic, & Cope was on July 20 (it can be viewed here), while other great videos have followed.  Nice work, Neal, and keep up the fine work!  

Nota Bene: Stay tuned for the next videos in the series!

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