2017-05-04 / Front Page

Prayer shawls

Marie Joseph celebrates 10-year tradition
By Garrick Hoffman
Staff Writer


Elaine Lariviere of Dayton, left, and Beverly Libby of Westbrook – who founded the prayer shawl retreat 10 years ago – knit prayer shawls at Marie Joseph Spiritual Center on Saturday, April 29. (Garrick Hoffman photo) Elaine Lariviere of Dayton, left, and Beverly Libby of Westbrook – who founded the prayer shawl retreat 10 years ago – knit prayer shawls at Marie Joseph Spiritual Center on Saturday, April 29. (Garrick Hoffman photo) BIDDEFORD – Pairing their knitting and crochet skills with plenty of prayer and camaraderie, about 20 women gathered at the Marie Joseph Spiritual Center for the 10th anniversary of the center’s prayer shawl retreat weekend.

Situated in Biddeford Pool and overlooking the ocean, the April 29 weekend retreat, hosted by administrator and Biddeford Pool resident Sue Bourett at the former Evans Hotel, attracts participants from Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Connecticut and Maine, and in the past it has attracted people come from Vermont and Rhode Island. It’s open to the public and anyone can join, and the retreat costs $200.

The retreat was facilitated by Worcester, Massachusetts resident Connie Bartelson, one of the first women involved when they began meeting 10 years ago, wherein women sitting in a circle knitted and crocheted prayer shawls in accordance with scripture and a theme of water. No shawl bears the same pattern or color, Bartelson said.


Prayer shawls of different patterns and colors hang in the Marie Joseph Spirtual Center. All are woven with prayer and donated in celebration or to those in need. (Garrick Hoffman photo) Prayer shawls of different patterns and colors hang in the Marie Joseph Spirtual Center. All are woven with prayer and donated in celebration or to those in need. (Garrick Hoffman photo) “Tomorrow, we’ll pass our shawls around, one at a time, and each one of us prays over that specific shawl,” she said. “These shawls are prayed over by each of the women here – very special. The point of the retreat is to get together with people from other states and share what you do and bond.”

Prayer shawls are garments or clothes that are blessed and have the look of long, knitted scarves. Bartelson said prayer shawls originated from Jewish culture, but can be made for anybody and are invariably donated. Many parishes have a ministry where they pass them out if someone is sick or dying, but they’re also celebratory, she said.


Sister Sue Bourette, administrator of Marie Joseph, in the meeting room where the prayer shawl retreat was held. She said the group of women knitting and crochetting prayer shawls was “a spirited group.” (Garrick Hoffman photo) Sister Sue Bourette, administrator of Marie Joseph, in the meeting room where the prayer shawl retreat was held. She said the group of women knitting and crochetting prayer shawls was “a spirited group.” (Garrick Hoffman photo) Westbrook resident Beverly Libby, who founded the prayer shawl activity at Marie Joseph in 2007 along

FMI

The next prayer shawl retreat weekend will be held May 19 to 21 at Marie Joseph. To sign up, contact the center at 284-5671.

with Bartelson and Rosemary Mazzocchi of Hollis, New Hampshire, and has woven more than 200 shawls in 10 years, said the creator often discovers how the shawl is used and who it’s given to. The beauty of the shawl isn’t its only important element, she said.

“Every single one of them is knit with prayer, so the prayer is as equally important as the beauty,” she said.

Everyone who has made a prayer shawl has a different story, Bartelson said, and sometimes the creator is making it without knowing who it will go to.

“A lot of times you have no idea who you’re making the shawl for, and all of a sudden it’s done and you get a phone call and you need to give it to that person, because the person’s there,” she said. “My girlfriend’s son-in-law was going to Iraq and she asked if I’d make her a shawl. He couldn’t take a shawl with him so we made a little one and he put it in his backpack and took it. We made her a shawl of the same color so she could have one while he was over there. And we made little ones for her three boys, and they had it under their pillows the whole time he was over there. It’s a connection to back home.”

The shawls were also given to each other. At about 11 a.m., after knitting and crocheting for about an hour and a half, the women stood and, in a ceremonious fashion, three of them offered a selected woman a shawl they made by draping it over the recipient’s shoulders. Following the offering of the shawls, the women iterated a series of prayers.

“May our friends today at our prayer shawl retreat receiving their shawl of friendship be cradled in hope, kept in joy, graced with peace and wrapped in love,” the women chorused.

The group meets four times a year to produce shawls, Bartelson said. Two of the gatherings are at Marie Joseph, and the other two are in New Ipswich, New Hampshire. While the group has made shawls for those in need, it has also made shawls for weddings and baptisms, Bartelson said.

“They’re a spirited group,” Bourett said.

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