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Hands for God expands ministry for those in need

By RENEE WEBB, Globe reporter
(Email Renee)

What began as a prayer shawl ministry about 11 years ago at Immaculate Conception Parish in Sioux City has branched out into other areas based on requests or need.

Lori Helland, director of liturgy and music who oversees this ministry, said about 20 to 25 women are involved in the ministry.

“While prayer shawls are still a big part of it, it encompasses more than that,” she explained. With that in mind, a few years back the group took on a new name – Hands for God.

Prayer while making the items has remained a constant.

“Whatever we make – if it is baby blankets for Birthright or Mary’s Choice – there are always prayers involved,” said Helland, who noted prayers are offered for the recipients of the items. Plus, at various times of the year students from Mater Dei School will lead the women in prayer at the start of their meetings.

Some women crochet, some knit and others use a loom. A gifted few women are versatile in all forms. They make full-size afghans, lap robes, baby blankets, baby sweaters, hats and more.

“Now we are doing hats and scarves for the Knights of Columbus Coats for Kids at Mary’s Choice. We have made afghans for clients at Mid-Step Services. I open it up to whatever they feel called to do,” said Helland, who added they have made military prayer clothes as well for soldiers. Some of their items are given to the domestic violence shelter, residents of nursing homes and the Gospel Mission.

Pat Miller, who is a founding member of the group, mainly makes prayer shawls and lap robes, which she explained are the perfect size for someone in a wheelchair.

“It’s something we can do,” she said. “We can do it at home or at church. I’ve even taken bags of yarn with me when I have visited my daughter out in Rapid City. You can take it with you where you go, even in the car.”
Miller added, “I have lots of time on my hands and I can do this day or night. I love to do it and it’s very satisfying.”

Delila Senger, a member of the ministry for the last five years, creates preemie hats “because I am not talented with the needles. The looms work well for me.”

She likes being a part of the group “because it feels good to do something for others.” Senger also said she likes the involvement of the school children, who check out from time to time what the women have made and join with them in song and prayer.

Mary LeClair joined the group because she wanted to get to know more people and felt this was “a good giving project. I’ve learned more since I’ve been here with crocheting.”

She likes the flexibility of the ministry. Crocheted prayer shawls have become her specialty, although she also makes some items on the loom.

“I brought back six from Arizona last year and then after I got home, I did five more,” LeClair said. “Then I get tired and I just don’t do them for a while. There’s no pressure.”

Charlotte Sweeny is the member who came up with the name – Hands for God. The other ladies joked that she is “the star pupil” as Sweeny can pretty much do it all when it comes to this ministry – knit, crochet and use the loom. She acknowledged, though, that her real hobby and passion is for quilting.

One of the best parts about being associated with the Hands for God group is getting together with the others.

“I like the community,” Sweeny said. Besides, she added, “You can only make so many baby sweaters for your family, then you have to branch out.”

The women get together to work on their creations at certain times a year, such as weekly during Advent and Lent as well as monthly in the summer, but the work doesn’t stop there. Most continue making items on their own at home throughout the year.

Helland said this type of ministry is easy to start and can even involve the homebound.

“It is a way to reach out and touch people,” she said. “It shows that someone cares and is praying for them.”

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