Steuben blanket ministry thrives - Catholic Courier

Steuben blanket ministry thrives

After Joan Coleman read a June 19 Courier article about a new prayer-blanket ministry in Tioga County, she felt it would be fitting to remind folks that Steuben County, also, has such an outreach.

This ecumenical effort, known as the “Sew Sews Prayer Blanket Ministry,” has existed since 2000, producing more than 325 blankets for people who are critically ill.

“Everyone who receives these blankets, they just love them,” Coleman said.

Coleman, a parishioner at Our Lady of the Valley (St. Ann’s, Hornell; St. Ignatius Loyola, Hornell; St. Joachim’s, Canisteo; and St. Mary’s, Rexville), said she looked into starting a local prayer-blanket ministry after hearing about one in California. She hatched the idea to Ellen Bush, a member of the United Methodist Church in Canisteo, and they quickly gained volunteers — as well as blanket requests — by placing bulletin notices at churches of various denominations.

“The thing grew like crazy,” Coleman remarked.

A core group of eight people regularly attend the monthly meetings at Canisteo’s United Methodist Church, with Coleman and Bush serving as co-coordinators. Members gather to wash, dry, cut, pin and sew the materials together, often taking the blankets home to finish them. Several additional volunteers, including some men, assist in sewing from home as well.

“We have all denominations come to our meetings — Methodist, Presbyterian, Lutheran, Jewish,” Coleman said. “I think it’s kind of neat, really, when we hold our hands to say our prayer. It just gives you chills that we’re all denominations praying for one thing.”

The prayer goes as follows: “Pour upon us, O Lord, the spirit of brotherly kindness and love, and let us be an instrument of your healing and let our prayers become part of the fabric, saturating each thread to bring healing with each stitch. Please comfort and cover the recipient with your love through this blanket.”

Each blanket is 45 inches square, consisting of cotton on one side and flannel on the other. Coleman noted that blankets are tailored to the age and gender of each recipient. “A masculine blanket would be a plaid or darker pattern; a feminine would be a printed and perhaps flowered pattern; and a juvenile would be a fabric with ducks, bears or other child-like pattern,” she said.

Before being distributed, each finished blanket is blessed by a clergy member. Coleman said the blankets are earmarked for people with serious illnesses — as opposed to somebody who, for instance, has broken an arm and will recover. Otherwise, Coleman explained, it would be difficult to fulfill the volume of requests.

There is no charge for the blankets; the ministry relies on cash gifts as well as donations of blanket material. Coleman said that many donations come from families of previous blanket recipients.

Attached to each blanket is a brochure explaining the ministry. Although the great majority of blankets are distributed in the Canisteo Valley, Coleman said the Sew Sews Ministry has sparked similar outreaches as far away as Long Island, Texas and California.

“It’s very self-satisfying,” Coleman said of the ministry. “It makes you feel as if you’re doing something good. I think we all feel that way. The stories — about how people take these into the hospital and won’t let go of them, and want to take them into the casket — it pulls at your heartstrings and keeps you going.”

EDITOR’S NOTE: To obtain a blanket or make a donation to the Sew Sews Prayer Blanket Ministry, contact Joan Coleman at 607/324-3131 or jcoleman@infoblvd.net, or Ellen Bush at 607/698-2133 or jeb@infoblvd.net.

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