Katie Moretta, left, and Isabel Cumming look through piles of donated clothing during the annual St. Gianna clothing exchange. Photo by Mirjana Villeneuve

Queen's University students reject fast fashion with clothing drive

By  Mirjana Villeneuve, Youth Speak News
  • February 8, 2018
The sense of sisterhood was definitely palpable at Newman House Chaplaincy on Jan. 28.

It was the day of the annual clothing exchange run by student-led St. Gianna Holiness women’s group, based on campus at Queen’s University in Kingston, Ont. The women searched through clothes each had donated, passing around items that would look nice on their sisters and asking each other’s opinion.

“I don’t have a sister,” said Katie Moretta, a third-year English student. “But on a very basic level the clothing exchange almost creates that familial bond. Sharing clothes is intimate. This is what actual sisters do. We’re already sisters in faith but now we’re acting like actual sisters which is really special.”

The event allows the women to go home with some second-hand items, but also creates piles of leftover clothes which are donated to women in need. About 20 women students participated in this year’s event and four bags of clothing were donated to the local chapter of the St. Vincent de Paul Society.

Moretta has participated in the clothing exchange since her first year at Queen’s.

“It’s definitely a highlight of the year,” she said. “A lot of us even start saving our clothes at the beginning of the summer.

“It eases new members into the community really well because there’s no real pressure to discuss deep or demanding topics. It’s a perfect blend of community, faith and femininity.”

Greta Racco, a third-year music student who co-leads the St. Gianna Holiness Group, makes the point that this event, while building sisterhood, fights against fast fashion.

“We live in a society that is so big on buying things, using them, discarding of them,” she said. “And in a sense, the clothing exchange allows us to exchange our old clothes for something we might use more often and at the end of the day to give to the members of the community who don’t have enough, thus limiting the amount of waste, especially from clothing that is put into the garbage.”

The St. Gianna Holiness Group, which meets biweekly, was conceptualized by Fr. Raymond de Souza and founded six years ago by Claire Brown, who was a third-year nursing student at the time.

It all started when de Souza noticed that, with the help of Catholic Christian Outreach (CCO), the Newman House community focused heavily on evangelization but lacked resources and support for the daily prayer lives of the students. He asked Brown and one of the men who was also highly involved in the chaplaincy to start up “holiness groups” to fulfill this need.

“The idea was that we would meet every couple of weeks and come up with a plan of life that the members would agree to follow. The students would be exposed to different ways of praying that they might not have been already, and be encouraged by the unity of it,” said Brown.

When asked about her choice of patron, she said, “I knew about (St. Gianna), knew her as the saint who died to save her baby and when I was reading about different saints that I thought might be good patrons, I realized she was very relatable. She’s relatively modern, she was a mother, a doctor, a student, a leader in the Catholic community at her university, and she loved doing fun things. So, I thought she was a good fit for our community, as someone fun who was also very serious about evangelization.”

Fun yet serious is the perfect description for this group of young women as they move forward. The group is currently reading Mulieris Dignitatem by St. John Paul II and praying for one another and the rest of the students on campus.

(Villeneuve, 20, is a third-year Concurrent Education student at Queen’s University.)

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