There’s a small meeting room tucked into a back corner of the rectory at Christ the King Parish in Haddonfield. It’s lined with sofas and chairs—a comfortable, cozy spot for a small gathering. On the first Wednesday of each month, it fills with the lively voices of the members of the Prayer Shawl Ministry, laughing and greeting one another, busily working their knitting needles and crochet hooks to make blankets and shawls as part of an outreach that serves dozens of parishioners each year.
Pat Midura heads the group, and it’s surprising how much business gets done while the needles fly. In a recent meeting, there was a discussion of labels for baptismal blankets—each will be customized with the baby’s name and baptismal date, along with the name of the church. The question of placement arose and thoughts were shared on the best place to sew the label onto each blanket.
Then there was a pause as knitter Leslie Konrad encountered a difficulty in her handiwork and consulted with Pat on the best way to proceed. They both leaned over Pat’s iPad, discussing technique. Afterword, Pat turned to the group and declared with a laugh, “We’re just a gabfest!” Then she brought the women together in prayer.
Afterward, they spoke more about the prayerful aspects of their ministry. Although they gather for fellowship and sometimes for help in craftsmanship in the needle arts each month, the Prayer Shawl Ministry began almost 10 years ago as a way to reach out to the chronically ill and to those who were facing major surgery. It was, and is, a tangible way of letting parishioners know that their church community cares about them and supports them in prayer.
And this year, at the request of their pastor, Father James Dever, the group has taken on a much larger role in providing a blanket knitted or crocheted for every baby to be baptized in the parish. So far, for 2017, the number of scheduled baptisms is over 100.
When she first heard the number, Pat admits that her reaction was, “No way. We can’t make that many.” But the group considered the core of their mission of ministry — prayer — and decided that they would accept the new undertaking and do their best to make it happen, one blanket or shawl at a time.
Father Dever notes the impact made by each handcrafted gift: “When I present the shawls for baptism to the parents and family, they are so impressed — not just by the gift of the beautiful shawl but by the prayers that were said for the baby. The parents feel a sense of sacred presence with the church through the kindness of these good people who prepare these gifts.”
The women knit throughout the month, of course. “I usually do it at night, after dinner, maybe while I’m watching TV,” said Betsy DeVernois. “And I used to do it when we drove to Florida. I can do it in the car.”
“It’s relaxing,” added Leslie, “A form of contemplation.”
As the group’s original founders intended, the ministry exists “to celebrate a God who knits us into wholeness, who enables us to care for others, who encircles the world in an eternal shawl of love and compassion” (Susan S. Jorgensen, Knitting into the Mystery, 2003).
For more information about the Prayer Shawl Ministry at Christ the King Parish, contact Pastoral Associate Carol Pisani at (856) 429-1600, extension 119.