Shawl Ministry sends comfort, prayers to troops

CHERRY HILL — Since 2005, the Holy Eucharist Prayer Shawl Ministry (formerly St. Pius X) has been knitting and crocheting shawls and caps for those in need of peace, love, warmth and compassion throughout South Jersey. But this past year, their mission reached across the world to U.S. troops in Afghanistan.

Through one of its members, the ministry connected with U.S. Army 1st Sgt. Patrick Connors, Alfa Company/114 Infantry stationed in Afghanistan. For more than six months, the 22 women of the ministry knitted 35 shawls and caps, channeling their creativity and prayers toward the special needs of Sgt. Connor’s unit.

“We’re often told that our prayer shawls have helped recipients through difficult times in their life, so we were so honored to provide comfort to these brave men and women who face such challenging circumstances,” said ministry organizer, Mary Beth Smith.

The women meet in the parish center the first Monday of every month to pray and make shawls. Pat Cooney, a ministry member who organized the project for the U.S. troops, also received financial donations from Iron Workers Local 401 in Philadelphia.

“We prayed with each stitch, asking God to keep them safe — physically, emotionally and spiritually —especially since they were so far from home and family,” commented Cooney.

In addition to the troops, the Holy Eucharist Prayer Shawl Ministry has provided shawls to Samaritan Hospice and DSI Marlton Dialysis Center, as well as to any individual who requested one. Since its inception, the ministry has “harvested” more than 450 shawls for people of every faith.

“We all agree that this work is from the hand and heart. There is nothing more rewarding than wrapping a shawl around someone in need, or someone experiencing a special life event, such as a child’s birth or marriage,” explained Tommi Giard, one of the ministry’s team members. “We often receive notes afterwards from recipients, telling us that they are empowered and comforted by the knowledge that our group is praying for them.”

Recipients Estelle and Sid Wilchins wrote: “We can’t thank you enough for each and every stitch of comfort, well wishes and warmth that the prayer shawls represent. We shall wrap them around us proudly with beautiful thoughts of you and others who knit with such kindness….”

Over time, the ministry has received countless notes like the one from the Wilchins. When the group began five years ago with the blessing of former pastor, Msgr. William Brennan, even organizer Mary Beth Smith was amazed by the response.

“I thought a handful of women would show up, but we had a strong response and although some have moved on, we still have a core group of about 20 who embrace our mission…and enjoy the camaraderie,” Smith said.

And for those who love the idea but lack the skills, Smith says that the group is happy to teach anyone who is willing to learn. Others choose to support the ministry with monetary or yarn donations, and anyone can make a shawl request by contacting a ministry member.

The Holy Eucharist Prayer Shawl Ministry meets the first Monday of each month at the Parish Center. For more information about supporting the ministry, or to make a shawl request, contact: Mary Beth Smith, 856-428-8396; June Wells, 856-354-0210; Tommi Giard, 856-795-2217; Rosanna Slobodian, 856-428-0166.

Categories: Latest News

About Author