In a little parish in a small town, a ministry to make something covered with prayers is doing great things.
According to Mary Au, the Rosary Sodality of St. Louis, Besancon Parish in New Haven has begun a prayer shawl/blanket ministry. The endeavor is comprised of eight to 10 talented women who knit, crochet or quilt prayer shawls and lap blankets, giving from their hearts to those who need hope, comfort or healing.
“The idea of the ministry was suggested at one of our rosary meetings last year when our president, Carolyn Nickel, asked for ideas on how to acknowledge parishioners who are ill or shut-ins,” said Au. “The women who provide the beautiful handmade goods do it on their own time at home and bring them to the atrium, where our Rosary Sodality meets.” The sodality meets monthly, except during winter months.
“Of the lap robes, slippers and prayer shawls, we have more prayer shawls. We always include a card assuring the recipient that he or she is being prayed for. It’s a symbolic ‘hug’ from God and the parish community,” Au said.
Some women who do not know how to do needlework instead provide yarn, fabric or money for those in the ministry. “Also, when we placed an announcement in our bulletin, some anonymous folks left goods at the back of the church,” said Au.
“We pray over the shawls and our pastor, Father Benjamin Muhlenkamp, then blesses them,” said Au. “When we hear of a parishioner with an illness or needing surgery, one of us provides that person with a comfy shawl to let them know they are being prayed for and remembered.”
Deb Eiserle, a member of the group, said the prayer shawl ministry was important to her because “it’s a small way that I can reach out to those who are ill.” She also appreciates being able to help people in spite of her own physical limitations.
“I have an autoimmune disease and so I can’t always go out and visit people or get involved in more ‘active’ ministries,” Eiserle explained.
Roz Ort, another member, treasures the opportunity offered by the prayer shawl ministry to uplift others spiritually. “The prayer shawls are a symbol to the recipients that they are being prayed for and being given comfort, like we are putting our arms around them,” she said. “One elderly woman who received a prayer shawl was so pleased and grateful she sent a lovely thank-you note with a check to buy more yarn for further projects.”
Currently the other members of the group are Laura Gerardot, Bev Kline, Ruth Miesle, Ort, Sandy Voirol Ort and Rita Lucas of Missouri, who is the mother of parishioner Ann Holmes.
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