November 25, 2022

A special prayer ministry knits people together in faith

Wrapped in the prayer blanket that she was given after her first cancer diagnosis, Kim Zimmerman has been coordinating the All Saints Parish Ladies Sodality Prayer Shawl Ministry for the past eight years, a ministry that has created 854—and counting—prayer shawls for people facing a crisis in their lives. (Submitted photo)

Wrapped in the prayer blanket that she was given after her first cancer diagnosis, Kim Zimmerman has been coordinating the All Saints Parish Ladies Sodality Prayer Shawl Ministry for the past eight years, a ministry that has created 854—and counting—prayer shawls for people facing a crisis in their lives. (Submitted photo)

By John Shaughnessy

Kim Zimmerman knows the feeling of being wrapped in God’s love at a time of heartbreak.

The mother of two children had that feeling the first time she was diagnosed with cancer.

In the midst of her treatments in 2010, a stranger gave her a gift that touched her deeply and made her feel wrapped in God’s love—a prayer shawl.

“It meant a lot to me. It came from a friend of my mom who went through a cancer battle and had a prayer shawl. It came with prayers from people I didn’t know,” she recalls. “It was just one of those things you wrap around you, and you feel the love of God and the love and support of people who are praying for you.”

That feeling stayed with a cancer-free Zimmerman four years later during a meeting of all the women’s groups from four different parishes in southern Indiana that had been merged into a new parish in Dearborn County—All Saints.

Seeking a way to unify the four women’s groups, someone asked for ideas, and Zimmerman proposed a prayer shawl ministry, even though she didn’t know how to crochet. When her idea was embraced, the knitting—and the connecting with people in need—began for the All Saints Parish Ladies Sodality Prayer Shawl Ministry.

Knowing how much her prayer shawl meant to her, Zimmerman was thrilled when the group’s first shawl was completed and given away. Then a reminder about life struck in a heartbreaking way.

“The first person we gave a prayer shawl to died, and I was devastated,” Zimmerman recalls, the emotion of that reality still visible in her voice eight years later. “My heart was broken.

“But these are not to cure them. They’re to help them to get through what God has in store for them. We’re all going to die at some point. The shawls are there to help people get through the hardships of life. There are so many people who struggle in some way, and this gives us a way to show our love and support.”

Their love and support—plus their acknowledgment of God’s plan for each person—come through in a note that’s attached to each prayer shawl:

“This prayer shawl was handmade especially for you. As we created it, we tucked prayers inside it with each loop. We asked our Lord to give you many blessings of courage, strength, wisdom, healing and love. As you wrap this prayer shawl around you, may you feel our Heavenly Father’s peace and comfort.”

Zimmerman also attaches a miraculous medal to each prayer shawl, and she sews a tag into each one that notes, “May Christ wrap his arms around you with his peace and love.”

‘You never know what God has in store’

In the eight years since that first shawl was made by the ministry, 853 more have been created, finding homes with people in 21 states across the country.

Some of the prayer shawls have been shared with people who have lost a spouse or a child. Many have been given to people dealing with life-threatening diagnoses or suffering from mental health issues. Others have been sent to people struggling from the loss of a job.

The 21 women in the parish’s ministry make prayer shawls in sizes that range from being suitable for an infant to a large adult, and in colors and patterns that appeal to both men and women.

“They love to crochet, and they love this ministry,” says Zimmerman, who long ago learned to crochet, too. “We really enjoy getting together. The camaraderie between us is good. We pray the rosary and pray over the shawls.”

One of the rewards the women get from making them is the response of the people who receive them.

“Some people will cry, just to know someone cares. And we all need that,” Zimmerman says. “Just to have that extra love and support means so much to people. For some people that have received them, once they have gone through their journey, they end up joining our group because they want to give back to others.”

The impact the prayer shawls can have is also apparent in another reality.

“Several people who have passed away have had their prayer shawl buried with them in the casket,” Zimmerman says. “Or the prayer shawl is draped over the coffin during the visitation.”

As for Zimmerman, the grandmother of three still has the prayer shawl she received in 2010. She has it draped on her rocking chair—“So I can see it all the time.”

Its warm symbol of faith, love and support continues to touch her as her cancer has returned.

“Two years ago, my cancer came back. Now, I’m on chemo, taking a daily pill. But God is good. Going through this gives me insights into how other people struggle, too. And as long as I’m here, I’ll be doing his work.”

She still marvels at what God has accomplished in this ministry in the past eight years.

“I had no idea what direction this would take. When you start something, God puts it in your head. I’m so grateful so many women have stepped up to help.

“You never know what God has in store. You just have to walk in his footsteps and let him lead you.” †

 

Related story: A gift of love shows the ‘miracle-working power of prayer’ to change a life, a family

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