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Blessings flow with prayer shawl ministry

WORTHINGTON -- A simple homespun piece of cloth can be a comfort to so many.

Worthington Hospice Chaplain Nelva Petersen is looking for a few compassionate souls to knit, crochet or donate yarn for Sunset Cottage's prayer shawl ministry. It's a ministry, she said, that provides great comfort for patients who receive them and great meaning for those who provide them.

Not untypical is Petersen's story of a patient who was given one of the local ministry's first shawls. The shawl, said Petersen, wasn't exactly the right size, "but I felt that was the shawl he was supposed to receive."

After the man's death, Petersen received a letter from the man's wife, who said the shawl had laid across his chest for the remainder of his life. He liked to hold it in his hands, she said, and the shawl was present at the memorial service.

"I'll treasure it the rest of my days," wrote the patient's grateful wife.

Prayer shawl ministries became popular in the 1990s, said Petersen, and they were then created for expectant mothers, weddings and other occasions as well as for people suffering from illness.

"In late November of last year, I started talking to a few individuals, and started it for Hospice," Petersen explained. "Initially, it was started so patients in Sunset Cottage could receive one. Then, my long-term goal was that patients even in their homes or nursing homes could receive them."

Today, the program reaches people in Worthington, Windom and Jackson. The Hispanic community is also involved.

"In November, we blessed six shawls. Since that time, we have dedicated or blessed 34 shawls," Petersen said. "We do that once a month, and they are blessed during our Singspiration service at Worthington Church of the Brethren.

"We can now bring shawls to Hospice patients in their homes," she added. "Hand in hand with that, we know we need to find and encourage more individuals who will knit and crochet."

The appropriate size for prayer shawls are 2- by 4½- to 5-foot. People who make the shawls are asked to give a blessing over the yarn and to remain in a prayerful state for the individuals and families receiving the shawls.

Anyone wishing to make donations of yarn or money to purchase yarn can call Petersen at 360-0537 or Sunset Cottage at 372-7770.

Shawl makers will never see the people who receive their gift, but many are touched to know they are part of a special ministry. The recipients are touched, too, Petersen said, to know that "even people they've never met are praying fo them."

Doug Wolter

Doug Wolter is the Daily Globe sports editor. He served as sports reporter, then sports editor, news editor and finally managing editor at the Daily Globe for 22 years before leaving for seven years to work as night news editor at the Mankato Free Press in Mankato. Doug now lives in Worthington with his wife, Sandy. They have three children and seven grandchildren. Doug, retired after a lengthy career in fast-pitch softball, enjoys reading, strumming his acoustic guitar and hanging around his grandchildren. He also writes books on fiction. Two of his stories, "The Genuine One" and "The Old Man in Section 129" have been distributed through a national publisher.

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