I began the Shawl Ministry at St. Matthias in Marlborough, Ma at the end of June of this year. We have meetings every Wednesday night from 7-9pm in one of the church's conference rooms. At the beginning, we had no idea of what we were doing other than making shawls and sharing stories of those who taught us to knit and crochet, but soon it started to take on a life of its own. At this time, we have approximately 18 knitters, of which 12-14 attend meetings regularly. We also have some parishioners who make the shawls at home and bring them to the meetings to be prayed over. in fact, a few friends of our members that aren't parishioners have contributed shawls and/or laprobes (for the men). To date, we have completed and prayed over 36 mantles and have given out 18. We slowed down a bit to make ponchos for the annual Christams Bazaar, one of our largest fundraisers of the year. We have been using Jiffy and Homespun with fun fur trim on the ponchos, and most of our mantles are made with Homespun. When we are fortunate enough to receive a financial contribution, we wait for a good yarn sale and then purchase as much Homespun as possible!
Our weekly meetings begin with an opening prayer. Then the knitting and crocheting begins amid a lot of sharing and laughing. It has turned into a time for the women to bond together, help one another, laugh and cry together. We share the stories of those who have received the mantles, as well as those who need them. By 8:30pm, completed shawls are placed on the tables before us so each one can place a hand upon it while we pray the prayer of blessing found on the shawl ministry website.
Those to be given that week are tied with ribbon and a tag is attached that has the prayer of blessing printed on the back, and on the front it says: "This mantle has been made with love for _______ by the St. Matthias Shawl Ministry. Around our gathered circle, this mantle has passed through our praying hands and has been blessed by our loving hearts." We then say a closing prayer.
If the one to receive the mantle is at one of the Masses that weekend, our pastor likes to take time during the service to have the person come forward. He then lays hands on the person and prays the prayer for the sick, anoints them with oil, blesses the shawl and gifts them with it. Those who are homebound are gifted by the parishioners who visit them on a regular basis. We have given shawls to some outside of our parish who could use them as well ... a 4-year old with leukemia, a 15-year old with stomach cancer, a 27-year old with breast cancer, a 46-year old in the final stages of cancer with no family close at hand are a few of those in need who aren't members of our parish community. We have been so blessed by them. Some have started shawl ministries at their churches. One has a degree in jewelry making and is making earrings for women with cancer out of beads she has collected from all over the world. This same person has also designed and is making cancer caps for other women with cancer. The blessings continue to spread much further than we ever thought possible.
I have kept a record of shawls completed and blessed, of those who have been gifted, and the stories that seem to flow naturally from the giving. In a separate notebook, I have kept the thank you notes we have received. We have so much joy in the making of the mantles. sometimes we speak in awe of the blessings that flow from the simple work of our hands. We are humbled and thankful.
We have set no goals, nor have we asked for a commitment from anyone. We believe that each mantle must be made with a loving, joyful heart. In faith, we have trusted God to guide people to us, both for the making and receiving. At this point, we are growing as a group. And as word of our ministry spreads, the list of those who need the mantles grows as well.
I would encourage anyone who has given thought to beginning such a group to try it. It's amazing that you can have so much fun together and at the same time do so much for people who need to know they are not alone in their time of difficulty.