Diocesan News

Woman Threads Story of Her Deep Faith One Stitch at a Time

Gail Frohlinger recreated the crest of the Diocese of Brooklyn by carefully studying images of it. (Photos: Courtesy of Gail Frohlinger)

GRAVESEND — Gail Frohlinger is rarely found without a crochet needle in her hand. For her, crocheting is more than just a hobby. It’s a way for her to demonstrate her Catholic faith.

“Every stitch I do, I think of as a prayer,” said Frohlinger, a retired public school teacher from Gravesend who spends her time crocheting banners, veils, and other items depicting religious themes. She does needlepoint, too.

“I definitely feel it brings me closer to my faith,” she added.

Examples of her work can be found all over the Diocese of Brooklyn. Her handiwork includes a banner with the diocese’s crest that hangs outside the chapel at the chancery in Windsor Terrace, a humeral veil she donated to the Cathedral Basilica of St. James in Downtown Brooklyn, a banner depicting the Holy Spirit she made for St. Ephrem Church in Dyker Heights, and altar cloths for Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary & St. Stephen Church in Carroll Gardens.

When Bishop Frank Caggiano, an auxiliary bishop of Brooklyn, was named bishop of the Diocese of Bridgeport, Connecticut, in 2013, Frohlinger, who knew him for years, created a needlepoint banner of his crest and presented it to him as a gift. 

Her current project involves crocheting baby blankets for the Sisters of Life, the religious order founded by the late Cardinal John O’Connor in 1991 to help mothers who chose life over abortion.

Frohlinger started making baby blankets three years ago when a parishioner of Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary & St. Stephen, where she was attending church at the time, announced the parish Mother’s Day project and that they would be donating them to the Sisters of Life. To date, Frohlinger has crocheted more than 35 baby blankets and is working on more. 

“Definitely, when I do the blankets, I think of the children, how innocent they are, and how they deserve to have something to keep them warm,” she said.

Frohlinger was raised Jewish but converted to Catholicism two decades ago when she was in her 50s. She was baptized and confirmed wearing a robe she sewed by hand. After her conversion, she became a member of the Diocesan Choir and got the chance to indulge in another of her passions — singing.

She puts a great deal of thought into each one of her creations. For the banner she made for St. Ephrem Church, she created a design featuring a dove and a harp. “I knew the Holy Spirit is a dove, and I wanted to have a harp” she explained because St. Ephrem is known as the Harp of the Holy Spirit.

Frohlinger was a home economics teacher in New York City public schools from 1972 to 1982 and then worked as a substitute teacher in Garden City, New York, for many years.

She has been sewing, knitting, and crocheting most of her life, having learned from her grandmother, Bessie Frohlinger. “My grandmother had 13 grandchildren. 

“I was the eldest girl and I used to sit and watch her sew on the machine. When I was in elementary school, in the fourth grade, I learned how to do embroidery and sew by hand,” she recalled.

Gail Frohlinger says she enjoys making baby blankets for the Sisters of Life to give to young mothers because it gives her a chance to work with a wide palette of colors.

Sewing was also part of her life in other ways. For 15 years, she served as a costume curator at the Metropolitan Opera. 

“When I first got there, the costumes were cataloged, but they were categorized as ‘green dress’ or ‘red shoes.’ I had to identify them and give more detail,” she explained. “The good thing about their collection was that they had photographs of the performers wearing them in productions. I had to put the puzzle pieces together.”

She loved working at the Met, where she once shared an elevator with the legendary tenor Luciano Pavarotti. 

“He held the elevator door open for me,” she remembered fondly.

Her work at the Met was fascinating, she said. “They had costumes going back to 1884. The opera house started in 1883. We had costumes worn by Enrico Caruso,” she added.

But while her previous jobs gave her enormous satisfaction, her current sewing projects give her even more joy.

 “I feel like I’m giving back, and that’s very important to me,” she said.