By Nance Ebert, Contributing Writer
Marlborough – Shawls bring warmth and comfort to those enveloped in their fabric. For cancer patients at Saint Vincent Hospital in Worcester, being the recipients of hand-made shawls from the Shawl Ministry of St. Matthias Parish in Marlborough means more than just a warm covering. The shawls come with the love and prayers of the givers and include a prayer card from Monsignor Peter Beaulieu.
The ministry has been donating prayer shawls and lap robes to Saint Vincent Hospital for the past year. About 25 volunteers from the parish and community knit and crochet the items to donate and meet once a month to socialize. Members of the parish donate most of the yarn and each shawl takes approximately six weeks to complete.
“For the past 10 years, we have been making shawls, mittens and lap robes that are crocheted and knitted that we have been donating. We try all different patterns and get creative,” said volunteer Joanne Litster. “We work on this project year round and just this year, we have given about a dozen shawls so far to Saint Vincent Hospital as one of our volunteers has a daughter who is a patient advocate at the hospital. She knew what we were doing and thought it could help those who were very ill.”
A reception was held Nov. 15 in the Parish Hall with Saint Vincent Hospital officials, including Monsignor Peter Beaulieu; Father Francis O’Brien, pastor; CEO Jeffrey Welch; Michael Paruta, chief human resources officer; Dr. Yuka Vinagre, medical director of ICU and director of Medical Family Program; Lisa Holingren, nurse manager of PCU; Wendy Lancey, nurse director of ICU; and Debra Natoli, patient advocate at ICU. The event celebrated the success of the ministry and the impact that these donated items have had on the patients undergoing treatment.
“The event was surreal,” Litster said. “There were about 40 people there with keynote speakers conveying how much these shawls have positively affected the recipients and their families…We were presented with a plaque as well as a monetary donation to enable us to purchase more supplies. The plaque was signed by the Board of Directors and will hang somewhere in the church. This really makes us feel so good about what we do.”
The volunteers in the Shawl Ministry also knit and crochet chemo-caps to Marlborough Hospital for those undergoing treatment. They also knit hats and donate them to Birthright in Marlborough for young mothers that need clothing for their young infants and children.
Litster said what has surprised her the most are the letters that have been sent over the years thanking the parish and the many volunteers for what they do.
“We have no idea what the reaction is once a patient receives a shawl or other hand-made item,” she said. “But when we get a letter from the patient or a member of their family thanking us and sharing how that single item of clothing had such a positive impact on their loved one, well, it reminds us about what is truly important.”