HOT SPRINGS – Hundreds of sick and grieving people have received comfort, warmth and prayers through the efforts of a group of women at St. Mary of the Springs Parish who offer their time to the prayer shawl ministry.
"The prayer shawls are made by many women who make them while they pray," said Peggy Peters, a founder of the ministry. "People may not see God, but we know he is beside us."
Peters said the ministry creates crocheted and knitted shawls and cloths for anyone in need and hats for newborns. They also crochet hats for stillborn babies before they are buried.
All of their work is blessed before it is presented to the recipients. Pastor Father Ravi Rayappa Gudipalli blessed their latest creations May 21 for Peters. He said the prayer shawl ministry helps to relieve the physical and mental pains people experience.
"It is a blessing to so many. They know they are in the presence of God," Father Gudipalli said. "They are made out of love for people by so many who make them with a prayer."
"Prayer shawls are a tangible gift given, wrapping the recipient in God's comforting, loving arms. Giving them peace of mind, body and spirit," Peters said. "This is a gift to our community, not just to our parish. They may be Catholics or Methodists or Baptists. They are for anyone in need."
Peters said she brought the ministry to Hot Springs from North Little Rock in 2018 by responding to an email from the parish's Hands of Mary ministry asking everyone to pray for the wife of a deacon who was sick. She had been involved in a prayer shawl ministry at Immaculate Conception Church before moving to Hot Springs in 2017.
"I responded, 'It sounds like she needs a prayer shawl,’" Peters said. "Someone replied, 'What is a prayer shawl?'”
Hands of Mary agreed to make it a part of their ministry.
“We started out with five or six women getting together. Some of them could knit and others crocheted,” Peters said.
She said during the first meeting, the members decided on shawl patterns and decided to make smaller prayer cloths. The pattern is 4-inches round with a cross in the middle.
Accompanying every cloth is a small card that says, “May this prayer cloth be a tangible symbol of God’s abounding love and care for you. The cross in the middle is to remind you that when experiencing times of fear, doubt and suffering, to turn to Jesus and ‘cast all your worries on him for he cares for you.’ (1 Peter 5:7)”
They have made and distributed about 100 shawls, which includes a small medal of Mary, as well as hundreds of prayer cloths, she said.
Peters said the group hasn’t been active much for the past year, but said she plans to get the group back together soon.
Lynn Lively, who learned to crochet from her aunt who made afghans for veterans, said she joined the shawl ministry as soon as she heard about it.
“I just retired, and I wanted to do something for the church,” Lively said.
Peters said because it takes more than a week to make a shawl, many women have made hundreds of the smaller prayer cloths.
Lively said she and other members crochet bags full of the prayer cloths to give away to people at St. Mary food pantry, CHI St. Vincent Hospital and to prison ministry.
“This is a group effort,” Lively said. “We couldn’t do this without everyone.”
Peters said the members are rewarded from the numerous notes and cards they receive from people who have received shawls and prayer cloths.
“It brings such comfort,” said a widow who received a shawl. “I keep it with me at night and hold it tight when I start feeling the loneliness.”
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