Prayer Shawl Ministry Weaves Comfort, Hope
By Gary Loncki
To see Sisters of Mercy, Mercy Associates and others come together in a balance of work and prayer to create beautiful prayer shawls to bring comfort to those who need healing is very much a visible act of Mercy. The seed for this ministry was planted in a yarn store in Madison, Conneticut 11 years ago.
Sister Peggy Gorman was on sabbatical at a Sisters of Mercy retreat center there and happened to visit a yarn store in town. A clerk showed her a news article about two local women who started knitting or crocheting and delivering prayer shawls to comfort hurting people.
Intrigued by the idea, Sister Peggy thought to herself, “When I go home, I will do this!”
Once back in Buffalo, she began to set up a prayer shawl ministry that would spread to the Sisters of Mercy in Erie, Pittsburgh and Rochester.
“I never imagined it would grow like this,” Sister Peggy said.
In 2003, Sister Peggy was invited to give a presentation regarding this ministry to leadership who in turn brought the information to the sisters from Erie, Pittsburgh and Rochester. New groups then began in each area and have reached out to others in their time of need.
Generally, prayer shawl meetings follow a specific agenda that begins with prayer. A lighted candle signifies the healing presence of Christ. The agenda includes the reading of names of past recipients, new names to add, sharing of thank you letters and, of course, the knitting and crocheting of shawls.
In Pittsburgh, Sister Dorothy Miller said different groups representing military service-persons, pregnant women, police officers wounded on duty and families of slain officers, hospice patients and children in hospitals have requested prayer shawls from the Sisters of
Mercy. The Pittsburgh ministry has gone on to start prayer shawl ministries in 14 Pittsburgh-area parishes.
Sister Pierre Dembinski of Erie told me that many touching moments have come when the shawls are presented.
“Many of the recipients have tears in their eyes and want to hug you in gratitude,” she said.
Sister Margaret Mary Wintish of Rochester summed up the ministry this way, “The responses of the people who receive a shawl say to me that this ministry is Jesus touching others in a compassionate expression of love.”
Gary Loncki is Director of Communications for the Sisters of Mercy New York, Pennsylvania, Pacific West Community.