March 8, 2018, Adrian, Michigan – As an Adrian Dominican Sister, Sister Sarajane Seaver, OP, was involved in typical ministry, teaching as an elementary and junior high school teacher in Michigan and California. But she later found her identity as an artist and a weaver – creating prayer shawls and other items that have brought beauty and joy to other people’s lives.
The youngest of four children of Glenn and Helen (Springer) Seaver, Sarajane was born in Adrian but later moved to Ypsilanti, Michigan. There, she was taught by the Adrian Dominican Sisters for 12 years at St. John the Baptist School and was personally inspired by them.
Woven into Sister Sarajane’s life were health issues that could have been obstacles but only made her stronger. “I was sick a lot as a first grader, and Sister Victoria used to stay after school to help me catch up,” she recalled. “I always said I wanted to be like Sister Victoria when I grew up.”
Sister Sarajane also struggled with polio as a child. When she and her siblings went to get the first of three polio vaccines, Sister Sarajane she couldn’t receive it because she had a cold. After finally receiving the innoculation, she and two other children contracted the disease.
“I left the hospital in braces and cuff crutches,” Sister Sarajane said. “I decided I was not going to live my life like that.” Inspired by a picture of President Franklin Delano Roosevelt, she daily practiced walking on crutches without the braces. At her eighth-grade graduation, she turned her crutches over to her brother and walked without them.
But medical issues were not all that was woven into Sister Sarajane’s life – so was art. “Even as a kid I used to embroider,” she said. She started with store-bought squares that featured nursery rhymes and embellished them. By the time she had embroidered about 100 squares, she decided to make a quilt with her mother’s help.
She returned to art after serving as pastoral associate at St. Joseph Parish in Winslow, Arizona. While serving from 1984 to 1987 as Director of Creative Activities at Weber Center, Sister Sarajane discovered three looms in the Motherhouse laundry room and began to work with them. That led her to pursue a Bachelor of Fine Arts in weaving and fiber design at the College for Creative Studies (CCS) in Detroit and, after her 1993 graduation, spent 10 years as a financial aid officer at CCS.
In those years and beyond, weaving became Sister Sarajane’s vocation. “Being a weaver is not something I do,” she said. “It’s something I am.”
Along with her traditional weaving, Sarajane created a new way to weave prayer shawls, basing their design on the pattern of notes in hymns. “I always felt that weaving looked like written music, so I decided to see if I could weave music,” she explained. As a gift to one of the Congregation’s General Councils, she wove prayer shawls patterned on the music of Beethoven’s Ode to Joy.
Whether prayer shawls or more traditional weavings, Sister Sarajane’s creations have brought joy to others. In January 2018, Sister Sarajane attended an artist’s reception for “Sisterhood,” an art exhibit based on her works and the jewelry of Sister Rita Schiltz, OP at the Adrian Center for the Arts. In viewing her work, Sister Sarajane said she hopes people “see the gifts of God and the beauty of God.”
Left: These are just a few of the sampling of Sister Sarajane’s creations that were on display during the Sisterhood art exhibit. Right: Sister Sarajane Seaver, OP (left) and Sister Nadine Sheehan, OP, examine one of Sister Sarajane’s hangings at the Sisterhood art exhibit at the Adrian Center for the Arts.