St. John Bosco parishioners have started a Prayer Shawl Ministry (left to right ): Patricia Almeida, Mary Jacobi, Linda Bachiu, Eleanor Weisgerber, and Michelle Berzolla. (Photo submitted by Karen Bosker)

From Grief to giving: Saskatoon parish launches prayer shawl ministry to offer comfort, hope to grieving

By Kiply Lukan Yaworski

When Karen and John Bosker lost their 36-year-old son Brock at the beginning of January two years ago, comfort was hard to come by.

Despite undergoing tremendous loss and undertaking a period of grieving, the couple were able to find a sense of solace after receiving a handmade prayer shawl gifted to them by St. Mary Parish in Christopher Lake, Sask.

“It brought us comfort to know members of the parish were praying for our family at such a difficult time,” Karen Bosker said. “Every time we wrap ourselves in the shawl, it is a tangible reminder God is with us along with our Christian family.”

Now, thanks in no small part to her own experience with receiving the physical symbol of God’s love and care, Bosker along with fellow parishioners at St. John Bosco Catholic Church in Saskatoon have launched their own Prayer Shawl Ministry.

Seven women from St. John Bosco Parish – Patricia Almeida, Linda Bachiu, Michelle Berzolla, Karen Bosker, Jen Green, Mary Jacobi, and Eleanor Weisgerber – have been volunteering their time to craft handmade prayer shawls for those in their community who may be in need.

One of the volunteers welcomes the members of the ministry into their home every two months. There, members gather to pray for the sick in their parish and for the ministry and provide updates about who would benefit from a visit or a shawl. Although the volunteers work to crochet or knit shawls on their own time, they often work together at the bi-monthly meeting while enjoying each other’s friendship.

Crocheted crosses that are attached to each shawl. (Photo by Karen Bosker)

The shawls also feature attached crocheted crosses, a tangible sign of God’s presence for those who receive them and a staple trademark of the ministry’s design. As for how the ministry stays fully stocked, St. John Bosco Knights of Columbus Council #11936 and parishioners have extended a helping hand by providing funding for yarn and as well as a donation of crochet hooks and knitting needles.

Last month, a collection of shawls was blessed on World Day of the Sick by St. John Bosco pastor Father Marvin Lishchynsky. After being blessed, the shawls were distributed to grieving, ill, and shut-in members of local parishes with the help of St. John Bosco’s parish nurse Deb Bauche and former parish nurse, Sister Carol Borenson, SGM. The two volunteers also take time to pay visits to those receiving the shawls, rather than simply dropping them off.

Display of prayer shawls blessed at St. John Bosco Parish in Saskatoon on the World Day of the Sick on Feb. 11, 2024. (Photo by Karen Bosker)

While the initiative may be new to St. John Bosco Parish, Prayer Shawl Ministry has been around for close to three decades, with 2024 marking 26 years since its inception.

According to Prayer Shawl Ministry, the idea was born in 1998 by Janet Severi Bristow and Victoria Galo, two graduates of the 1997 Women’s Leadership Institute at the Hartford Seminary in Hartford, Conn. By combining their love of knitting/crocheting with a sense of compassion, the shawl ministry began to take shape.

“Shawls, made for centuries universal and embracing, symbolic of an inclusive, unconditionally loving, God. They wrap, enfold, comfort, cover, give solace, mother, hug, shelter and beautify,” minister co-founder Severi wrote in 1998. “Those who have received these shawls have been uplifted and affirmed as if given wings to fly above their troubles.”

The official Shawl Ministry website notes that prayer shawls can be used for a variety of different purposes, including undergoing medical procedures, during bereavement, prayer or meditation, marriage ceremonies, birthing, and as a comfort after a loss or in times of stress.

Prayer Shawl Ministry also offers links and resources on how to craft shawls, stories, and testimonies and how to begin the ministry within a faith community. All the listed information and more can be found at

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