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The power of prayer blankets

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By Deanna Godman

For the last several years, Pat Douglas has been making prayer blankets for seriously ill parishioners at All Saints Catholic Church in Taylorsville.

She and fellow parishioner Penny Burns decided to start making the blankets about five or six years ago. They wanted to provide “something to give them comfort, so they know that someone is praying for them.”

The blankets are child’s sized with a pocket in the center. The pocket contains a prayer book and a rosary, and originally was printed with a prayer from the church.

There wasn’t much of a response, so the women stopped making them for a while. Then a parishioner became very sick, and Douglas thought, “Oh, that person needs a blanket.”

Douglas decided to use her embroidery machine for the prayer instead of printing it from the computer and soon everyone in the parish who was sick wanted a prayer blanket. Douglas started taking requests, and originally put the person’s name above the prayer. She received so many requests, though, that she decided to make them ahead and now she places a crucifix or an angel above the prayer.

She soon noticed that three to four blankets were needed per week, and said that she started to wonder, “Is everyone in the church sick?”

It turned out that church members were getting them for friends and family members. She also learned that while other churches were making prayer blankets, she was the only one making embroidered ones, so members of other churches were getting blankets from her too.

Because of the amount of work involved, the blankets are now only available to members of the church.

Making the blankets is a time consuming process. It takes at least three hours to make each blanket. The fabric needs to be washed, then ironed and then cut to size. It takes an hour for the embroidery to be put on the pocket.

Next, the pocket has to be sewn onto the front of the blanket, and the front and back are sewn together.

Finally, the decorative top-stitching is added. This step also serves as quilting to help hold the pieces in place. When the blanket is finished, a prayer book and rosary are placed in the pocket.

The prayer book contains prayers that the ladies thought would be comforting. They saw a prayer book that another church had put together, and asked to include those prayers too. The prayers include the serenity prayer, Glory Be, Hail Mary, Our Father, Psalm 23 and poems by Helen Steiner Rice.

Because Burns didn’t sew, Douglas started out by doing all the sewing herself. Burns, like current volunteers who do not sew, helped by picking out fabrics and putting color schemes together. Non-sewers also wash and iron the fabric.

Last year, several members of the Homemakers sewing club Thread and Thimble, including Pat Turner and Virginia Smith began helping Douglas with the sewing and embroidery. The fabric is often donated or purchased by the church, but the women who participate furnish all of their own embroidery supplies.

Pat Turner started making the blankets about a year ago. She got started because her mother-in-law, who was a quilter, passed away. Turner donated her fabric to the cause. Since she had an embroidery machine, she started to help making the blankets too.

“I thought if I had gotten sick and received one, it would have meant a lot to me,” said Turner.