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St. Patrick-St. Anthony Parish Prayer Shawl Ministry Passes 150 Mark in Donated Items To Community | Arts & Culture

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St. Patrick-St. Anthony Parish Prayer Shawl Ministry Passes 150 Mark in Donated Items To Community

GRAND HAVEN, Mich., MAY 14, 2015--Since 2007, an informal group of women from St. Patrick-St. Anthony Parish has been knitting and crocheting hand made shawls, lap robes, afghans, hats, mittens, scarves and similar items to give veterans, infants, middle schoolers, hospitalized persons, those in nursing homes, parish members and community friends comfort.  Now in its eighth year, the group--known as the Parish Prayer Shawl Ministry--has passed a major milestone of donating 150 items to persons in the lakeshore community and as far away as Haiti.

St. Patrick-St. Anthony Parish is located at 920 Fulton Street in Grand Haven.  Twenty-one women from the parish, including Grace Baauw, Rosa Bice, Nancy Buchanan, Janet Coyle, Naomi DeBarr, Sandra Easterling, Jennifer Grossman, Stella Humy, Mary Lautenschlaeger, Mary Lothshutz, Sally Moser, Marian O'Chocke, Lori Schneider, Mary Ann Stedron, Pam Stevens, Carol Swartout, Christy Taylor, Joanne VanderVeen and MaryJo Wyles are involved in the prayer shawl ministry.  Sally Derdaele and Pat Szczepanek serve as co-chairpersons.

Hand made items group members make are distributed to individuals in times of grief, illness, loneliness, stress or to celebrate the joys of new life and new horizons.  Crafters work independently on projects of their own choosing.  They gather twice a month to bring in completed projects, share information on current needs, technical tips, patterns and pray for gift recipients.  All completed and in-progress projects are also blessed.  Basic knitting instruction is available for interested individuals.  Men, as well as women over the years have crafted hats and baby items for the group.

"Being a nurse, I have cared for people all my life.  The prayer shawl ministry offers me the opportunity to continue to care for God's people," said Sally Derdaele.

Outreach recipients who have benefited from the parish prayer shawl ministry include:  Grand Haven Home for Veterans, The Pregnancy Center in Grand Haven, Helen DeVos Children's Hospital in Grand Rapids and a middle school in North Muskegon.  Baby caps with matching sweater sets, blankets, prayer shawls, afghans, lap blankets and more all have been created and donated to these groups over the past eight years.

"In the last few years we have been making things to sell at our parish's Fair Trade Sale.  It's held in early December and our sales benefit high school students at our sister parish--Sts. Simon and Jude--in Morne L'Hopital, Haiti, who must pay tuition and travel to Port-au-Prince for their education," said Pat Szczepanek.

The response to this ministry has exceeded all expectations to the point that the parish continues to give out an average of eight items per month.

"This ministry is a wonderful gathering of women who knit, pray and offer a great support ot those in our community.  It represents two-fold joy, both to the recipients and the knitters.  When a recipient receives a shawl, it's a symbol of all the prayers, god's strength and the parish's support to them in times of need or celebration.  It also gives the knitters great joy creatig these items, knowing they are going to people who can truly benefit from this level of care," said Nancy Megley, parish nurse with St. Patrick-St. Anthony Parish.

Women in this group of caring individuals spend countless hours stitching items with the knowledge that their handiwork will go to those in need of hope and comfort, while being enwrapped with the gift of warmth and wishes for wellbeing during difficult times.

"I started crocheting when I was 16.  My mother told me it was way too hard, so I had to prove her wrong.  I went to the store and bought a beginner's book that explained how to crochet and I've crocheted ever since," said Mary Lothschutz, prayer shawl ministry group member.

A card from the group accompanies each knitted or crocheted item given out to recipients.  On the card is a special prayer and blessing that reads as follows: 

"This healing shawl is a gift to you.  It was made by a member of St. Patrick-St. Anthony Catholic community.  Each time a person picked up the yarn to work on this shawl, they prayed:

          Bless this yarn.  May this shawl be a sign of your healing presence.  May it warm those who are weary, surround those who are in pain.  May your gentle touch reach out to heal in the light of Jesus Christ.  Amen."

Reasons for volunteering in the parish prayer shawl ministry are as varied as the expertise provided by the many members of the group.  The knowledge that knitters and crocheters are making a difference in people's lives when their hand crafted prayer shawls are given away keeps these ministry members actively involved.

"I started knitting while I was in 4-H," said Joanne VanderVeen, group member.

"It's very reassuring to see the joy, hope and comfort in giving a prayer shawl to someone.  It's heartwarming to see the sparkle in their eyes and in the hugs one receives," said Derdaele.

To keep pace with the demand,additional knitters, crocheters and weavers are always welcome and donations of hand-made shawls, yarn and cash for supplies are greatly appreciated.  Requests for shawls may be made through parish nurse Nancy Megley:  616-842-0001, ext. #119 or sending an e-mail:  nancymegley@stpatsgh.org.

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