Prayer Shawls, Comfort Blankets, and Homeless Mats Ministries

Three Saint Agnes ministries offer material comfort and support to the sick, homeless, and those in general need for prayers and comforting.  These ministries allow parishioners to share their creative interest and talents to care for the “Body of Christ” in a most practical way.  In times of need just knowing someone cared enough to make you a shawl, blanket, or sleeping mat “upon which you can place your head” is a blessing to those who are sorrowful, in pain, or poor in spirit.  Won’t you consider putting your God given gifts into action and find out how you might help one of these ministries?

  • The Prayer Shawl Ministry, offering knitted or chrocheted shawls.
  • The Comfort Blanket Ministry, offering quilted-style lap blankets.
  • The Mats for Homeless Ministry, offering sleeping mats made from grocery store bag “plarn” (plastic yarn).

The Prayer Shawl Ministry

In 1998, two graduates of the Women’s Leadership institute at the Hartford Seminary in Connecticut began a prayer shawl ministry. It was designed to create handmade shawls to provide comfort, support, and blessings to people experiencing trying times or one of life’s milestones, such as marriage or graduation. The ministry gathered women who combined their love of knitting and crocheting with their belief in the power of prayer. The idea soon spread throughout the country.

The St. Agnes Prayer Shawl Ministry began in February 2018. Our first mission is to provide shawls to parishioners who are shut-ins or in nursing homes and personal care facilities. However, we provide shawls to people of all ages who need comfort, support, or a “wooly hug.” Besides shawls, we also create scarfs, baby blankets and lap blankets. Recipients of our handmade items do not need to be members of the parish. If someone needs a prayer shawl, we provide one regardless of parish or religious affiliation. As one recipient said in her thank you note:

“What a nice surprise when someone delivered a beautiful prayer shawl to me. I was very grateful and fortunate because I know what prayer can do for people.”

We currently meet in the Old Convent at the following times:

April, May, June, July, and September on the 1st Wednesday of the month 6:00-8:00 pm.
October, November, January, February, and March on the 3rd Wednesday of the month 11:00 am-1:00 pm.
We do not meet in August and December.

At each meeting and at home, we pray before and after working on our shawls, and each shawl is blessed before it is distributed. As of June 1, 2022, we have distributed 248 shawls, 6 scarfs, 8 baby blankets, and 7 lap blankets to individuals and the following organizations:

  • The Diocese of Greensburg
  • The Grief Support Ministry
  • The Substance Abuse Ministry (SAM)
  • The Dementia Support Ministry
  • Knights for Life Transitions Health Care – North Huntingdon

We have also made Prayer Squares for the “That Man Is You” group, the small knitted hearts distributed by the HEART ministry, and small crocheted butterflies used by several parish ministries. One of our members even crocheted the serpent used in the Garden of Eden for Bible Drama Camp.

The members of the group purchase their own yarn. However, since our inception, we have been blessed with gift cards to Joanne Fabrics and Michaels, and monetary and yarn donations. We gratefully accept any donations which can be dropped off in the parish office. We normally use #5 weight yarn, but will accept any yarn that is contributed.

In 2018, we began the ministry with 11 members. We currently have 4 members who regularly participate. This often makes it difficult to produce the number of shawls we need. So, we welcome anyone interested in joining us.

Participants do not need to be experienced. We will help beginners. However, working with the Ministry on church grounds does require up-to-date clearances. If you would like to participate from home, we will be happy to work with you. Knitted and crocheted patterns and prayers are provided.

If you have questions about the ministry, please contact either Peggy Bianchi at 724-864-2347 or Charlene Feeney at 513-319-2904.

Comfort Blanket Ministry

Eileen Moreno began the Comfort Blanket Ministry approximately 6 years ago. These beautiful quilts are blessed and available to people of all ages who need comfort or support during difficult times of illness or loss.   The Ministry has made and distributed over 100 blankets.   If anyone would like to donate or cut 8 x 8 cotton material, we would greatly appreciate this.

Donations and material can be dropped off at the Parish Office during normal business hours.  For more information, please contact Eileen Moreno at 412-754-0125.

The Mats for Homeless Ministry

The “Plarn Sleeping Mats for the Homeless” Ministry was started six years ago by families in the Junior Youth Ministry. Sr. Charlene Ozanick, Director of Faith Formation for St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Parish at the time, suggested doing this family service project that would benefit the sisters in her community living with the poorest of the poor in Haiti.

She discovered that by using everyday plastic bags and cutting them into rings they could be tied together becoming “plarn,” also known as plastic yarn. Once the “plarn” was wound into a ball, it was then crocheted into a 3 ft. X 6 ft. mat used for sleeping. Since the project was introduced and people were asked to continue collecting, folding, cutting, and creating the “plarn” more than 175 mats have been made and distributed to homeless people in Haiti, people on reservations out West, and drug addicts from the Tri-County area.

Right now, the principal crochet artisan and designer of these beautifully patterned, colorful sleeping mats is our St. Agnes Parishioner, Kathy Ondrey. Kathy not only creates these beautiful mats she also prays for the persons who will eventually receive her creations and that’s what makes this another aspect of the “Prayer Ministries” here at Saint Agnes Parish.

Finally, the beauty of these mats is that by taking our everyday trash bags and turning them into a water resistant, easy to clean, soft to sleep on, portable, insect repellent sleeping mat, someone who does not have the luxury of a bed to sleep on every night now has the dignity of being up off the dirt ground wherever they call home.

God can use even our junk to make something beautiful and dignified when we use our care for the earth, our time, and our “God-given” talents to serve others in need. Anyone is welcome to join this ministry today. Find out more by calling Mary Blythe at 412-996-2115.