As we continue to expand our notion of what adult faith formation is—taking it beyond the scholastic sphere—I’d like to talk about one idea that combines several aspects of the six tasks of catechesis. I’m referring to the practice of parishes creating a Prayer Blanket (or Prayer Shawl) Ministry. In this ministry, parishioners sew/create prayer blankets or shawls for adults or children experiencing serious illness or transition (preparing for surgery, recovering from an acute illness, chronic conditions, life-threatening illness, loss of a loved one, loss of a job, relationship crisis, high-risk pregnancy, miscarriage, and so on). There is nothing magical about the prayer blankets or shawls; they are, in a sense, “sacramentals”—signs that remind us of God’s presence and expressions of love, concern, and prayer from others.
Such a ministry addresses a number of the goals of adult faith formation:
- Catechesis teaches the Christian how to pray with Christ. The prayer blanket ministry is a testimony to the fact that the faith community relies on God and the power of prayer in moments of challenge.
- Catechesis prepares the Christian to live in community and to participate actively in the life and mission of the Church. The prayer blanket ministry builds and strengthens the bonds of community, drawing people closer to one another.
- Catechesis promotes a missionary spirit that prepares the faithful to be present as Christians in society. The prayer blanket ministry conditions people to shift their attention outward to the needs of others and provides a concrete opportunity to express concern and address those needs.
Here are some links to parishes with such ministries and how they describe it in their own words.
- St. Thomas More (Austin, TX)
- St. Mary (Crown Point, IN)
- Holy Trinity Lutheran (Lombard, IL) (This can be an ecumenical ministry!)
- La Purísima Catholic Church (Orange, CA)
- Mary Immaculate Church (Farmers Branch, TX)
- St. Simon (Los Altos, CA)
- St. Francis of Assisi (Tonawanda, NY)
- Epiphany Cathedral Parish (Venice, FL)