Dear Grace Church Friends,
I would like to share with you some of the ways that I have experienced God’s loving presence through Grace’s Santa Maria Guild. Laurie’s arrival at Grace coincided with a growing need that I had, almost a year after my husband Blyden’s death, to get out of myself and my grief at losing the other half of my team of almost 40 years, and to focus more on the needs of others. I had prayed for God to “order my steps” in the days when just putting one foot in front of the other seemed like a monumental task.
I became inspired, through a good friend in Italy, by a saint from a tiny town, Mornese, Italy, Santa Maria Domenica Mazzarello. La Santa as she is known there taught young girls in a local orphanage to sew so that they would have a means of supporting themselves and she founded the Salesian order of nuns who now educate young people all over the world. I approached Laurie about an idea that I had of starting a Handiworks Ministry at Grace through which we would make prayer shawls and quilts for people who could benefit from having something comforting that was prayerfully made for them. Laurie encouraged the idea and the ministry was born more than three years ago.
Our first joint quilt was made for Carlos in celebration of his mother’s life. Carlos joined our group to assist with the making of his quilt and we couldn’t help but feel God’s presence as we all got to know his mother through his stories and his sewing in the same style that she had used. God was working with and through us as what could have been a sad undertaking, the making of a quilt to memorialize a beloved mother who had passed, became a means of creating bonds that have only grown closer and more profound since those hours of shared labor.
We continued to meet every other Saturday with a core group of 5 to 6 knitters, crocheters and sewers. Valerie joined our group shortly after her arrival in Jersey City and when she was pregnant with Isabella we became her American family, giving her a bit of the support and encouragement she was missing from back home in India. One of our meetings was a baby shower for Valerie and we all rejoiced in celebrating Isabella’s first birthday together this past May.
Laurie approached us a few months ago because it seems that God had an expanded path for us to walk. She asked if we would consider having the Handiworks Ministry take on more pastoral care duties, specifically praying for those in our community especially in need of prayer, and reaching out to them however might be appropriate, to let them know they are loved and cared for. Thus began our current practice of starting every meeting with a prayer session, using a prayer format that Ben Cummings put together for us, praying for those on our prayer list before we move into the handiworks sessions.
We have changed our name to the Santa Maria Guild to reflect our roots in the time honored tradition of using one’s hands to be a vessel of God’s loving care. A recent meeting found 9 of us joined around the table in making a quilt for the family of a sick child, going through the sewing things of a member’s relative who had died years ago, giving new life and use to these things that had been lovingly used by a cherished mother, and working on prayer shawls and prayer pockets for people on our prayer list.
I can’t help but feel that God has ordered my steps in ways I could never have dreamed of, giving me new people to love and share with and with whom I can fulfill my need to be of service to others. The bonds that we have made unite us in God’s love even when distance comes between us as when one of our initial members, Reni, and her family moved to London a year ago.
When you read this I should have just landed in Mornese, the birthplace of Santa Maria, for my fourth visit to what has become a most sacred space for me. I will continue to pray for all those on our prayer list and for my sisters and brothers in the Santa Maria Guild, who have taught me that when we open our hearts to others, even in life’s darkest moments, we can’t help but find God’s eternal love. I will close, as I do all of our Santa Maria Guild’s emails, with a quote from La Santa that reminds me of what we are all about, “Ogni punto un atto d’amore a Dio.” ”Every stitch an act of love to God.”
*If you would like to join the Santa Maria Guild please contact Jane: firstname.lastname@example.org
If you are in need of prayer please contact Rev. Laurie and/or fill out a prayer request form at church on Sunday email@example.com