By Lindsay Steele
The Catholic Messenger
RICHLAND-EAST PLEASANT PLAIN — On Veterans Day weekend, members of Ss. Joseph & Cabrini Parish recognized and honored Father Damian Ilokaba with a Quilt of Valor. Father Ilokaba, the parish’s sacramental minister, is a U.S. Army veteran currently serving as staff chaplain at the Iowa City VA Medical Center.
The parish presented him with the quilt after Mass Nov. 13. “This quilt is meant to offer comfort to you, and to remind you that although your friends and family cannot be with you at all times, you are forever in our thoughts and our hearts,” Jane Messer told Father Ilokaba. This quilt “unequivocally says thank you for your service, sacrifice and valor in serving our nation,” added Messer, the local Quilts of Valor Foundation coordinator.
Staff Sergeant Jeff Six of the Army National Guard represented the military at the quilt presentation and led the salute to Father Ilokaba with all of the veterans present. Marian Milender, pastoral associate/office manager for Ss. Joseph & Cabrini Parish, said Father Ilokaba has been a blessing to the parish, located about an hour from Iowa City.
“I was surprised!” Father Ilokaba said of the gesture. He joked with the congregation after receiving the quilt: “You didn’t even give me a hint!”
“It was heartwarming to see the surprise on Father Ilokaba’s face and the salute that he received from fellow veterans as they stood and saluted him with the leadership and encouragement of an active military officer,” Milender said. “I was surprised at the number of veterans that we have in our parish!”
Parishioner Rosemary Pacha designed and pierced the top of the quilt. Her quilting guild friend, Mary Marek of Kalona, quilted the top, filler and backing layers together. Each layer of the red, white and blue quilt has meaning, Messer explained to Father Ilokaba and the gathering at St. Joseph Church in East Pleasant Plain.
“The top of the quilt with its many colors, shapes and fabrics represents the communities and the many individuals that we are. The batting, the filler, is the center of the quilt, its warmth. It represents our hope that this quilt will bring warmth, comfort, peace and healing to the individual who receives it. The backing is the strength that supports the other layers. It represents the strength of the recipient, the support of his family, our communities and our nation. Each stitch that holds the layers together represents love and gratitude.”
The quilt was a symbol of the “the happiness and ultimately the love that this parish has for Father Damian,” Milender said.
“It’s a small community with very lovely people,” Father Ilokaba said. “There is a lot of happiness.”