“Each shawl is wrapped with a ribbon that has a beautiful prayer tag,” said coordinator Debbie Cronin
At the Church of St. Clare on Staten Island, members of the Prayer Shawl Ministry work to create shawls and lap blankets for people in the parish family and community “as a gift for healing, strength, and courage as they suffer from illness or loss.”
The dedicated volunteers crochet and knit “to bring hope, comfort, peace, love and prayers” through the work of their hands. Fellowship and the love of crocheting and knitting are combined into a prayerful ministry. Each shawl includes a tag with a related prayer.
Organizers said the group creates prayer shawls and lap blankets for those in need of comfort after the loss of a loved one, times of stress, illness, recovery, and other life challenges. As each shawl is created, they ask God to bless the one who will receive it. The shawls and lap blankets are made in each volunteer’s home and collected when completed. Members also stitch baby blankets for the Expectant Parent Mass in October and May.
“This ministry was started in 2010 by Patrice Crowley; she couldn’t do it anymore (when Covid began) – we had a two-year hiatus, and I took it over in June 2022. We meet once a month,” Debbie Cronin, coordinator of the Prayer Shawl Ministry, told The Good Newsroom.
“We offer shawls to the St. Clare Bereavement Group; the people appreciate this so much. Each shawl is wrapped with a ribbon that has a beautiful prayer tag, usually specific to the need – and we also attach a St. Clare medal. One person said: ‘I didn’t know there were other people praying for me,’ which is so nice. [Those are] exactly the results we like,” Cronin said.
The Prayer Shawl Ministry volunteers sometimes coordinate efforts with other parish groups. Cronin noted that the parish has an Angel Tree every Christmas season for several groups that collect donated items for needy families, and that currently she and her Prayer Shawl colleagues are making hats and scoffs to be included as Angel Tree gifts.
Ministry volunteers made and delivered prayer shawls to the Sandy Hook families after the 2012 tragedy.
The ministry currently has 14 members; in recent years they’ve been making more than 100 shawls and other items per year. There is much parish support for the creative works of the volunteers.
“The shawl maker begins the work with prayers for whomever the recipient might be, and the intentions are continued to be prayed on throughout the creation of the shawl or blanket,” said St. Clare’s pastor, Father Arthur Mastrolia. “Blessings continue when the shawl is sent on its way and when it arrives at its destination. What more would a parish effort desire than the multiplicity of prayers and blessings for brothers and sisters in need?”
Father Mastrolia added that the recipients themselves return the holy thoughts, and may even continue the kindness by making a shawl themselves, “and passing it on to someone else in need. Thus, the Prayer Shawl Ministry is a tool for evangelization, since blessings flow from person to person, with participants feeling the unconditional embrace of a sheltering, loving God.”
Eleanor Briordy, a ministry volunteer, explained why she joined the ministry about 11 years ago, and why she continues to volunteer:
“We started getting these beautiful letters from people telling us how much it meant to them that we were making these prayer shawls. I also made lap robes for men; one man was very excited because he was a Mets fan and I made him one with the symbol of the Mets. So, people were getting a lot of joy out of the things we were doing, and on the other hand it made me very joyful…I just love helping people, and I absolutely love crocheting.”