History of Prayer Shawl Ministry

The ministry was started by Toni Rausch in 2008

The following are Toni’s words on how it all began….

The Nativity Prayer Shawl Ministry began on a rather sad note.  In August of 2007 I (Toni Rausch) was diagnosed with kidney cancer.  After intense tests, scans and discussions, my urologist/surgeon recommended that the kidney be removed since the cancer was totally contained and my remaining kidney was very strong.  Soon after the diagnosis, I happened to be in the office of the rector of an Episcopal church in Alexandria who happened to be an ex-Catholic priest and a very good friend of mine and my husband.  I noticed a basket full of knitted materials and wondered what they were.  He told us his church had a very active prayer shawl ministry.  Then he gave me one and blessed it to sustain me through my illness and pending surgery.

 And so it did.  My surgery took place in November 2007 and that prayer shawl accompanied me to the hospital and into the operating room with the concurrence of the entire surgical staff.  It sustained me and brought me peace.  The surgery was completely successful.  I have been cancer free ever since that time and I still have that original shawl. 

 During that same time period a very good friend told us he had been diagnosed with kidney cancer and, in contrast to my diagnosis, his cancer had already spread to other parts of his body.  It was about that time that I approached Fr. Richard Martin with the idea that I believed Nativity could support a prayer shawl ministry.  He agreed and I began recruiting a core group of women.  I found three very dedicated, willing and committed women to form that core group – Joanne Dezzutti, Flo Grike and Michele McDaniel (to this day, Joanne and her daughter have made a special prayer card that we attach to each shawl).  We began recruiting, and establishing the meeting schedule as well as the processes that would allow the ministry to flourish.  We felt we should have both daytime meetings as well as evenings meetings so that women who worked could have a chance to be part of the ministry, too.  We uncovered a latent desire within the parish and found many, many interested women who joined the ministry.  And so we began in the Spring of 2008 with prayer and dedication to the Holy Spirit that He would grant us a growing ministry as He did on Pentecost.  We gave our first prayer shawl to my friend.

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Toni Rausch died unexpectedly in the summer of 2016.  And that was when I, Bonnie Carpenter, took the lead of the ministry.   It was not a position I wanted to have, but I guess God had other ideas.  And I must say, that I cannot thank Him enough.  I have made so many wonderful friends.  It is so special to be sharing in a ministry serving God by serving those who are dealing with a serious illness or coming to the end of their life.  As we gather for our meetings, we pray for the recipients of our shawls and we pray for each other – what a wonderful fellowship for women.

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