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Green Tree prayer shawl ministry goes where needed

| Saturday, Feb. 10, 2018, 7:54 p.m.

The prayer shawl ministry began 20 years ago in 1998 when Janet Bristow and Victoria Galo, graduates of the 1997 Women's Leadership Institute at Hartford Seminary, developed the effort as a result of their experiences in a program of applied feminist spirituality.

The shawls were a way of reminding people, young or old, that God could bring warmth, healing and comfort. They have been used by those undergoing medical procedures, during illness and recovery, during bereavement or as comfort after a loss or in times of stress. Shawls have been sent to American troops serving overseas and to fallen solders' families.

Slowly, as word spread, the ministry has gone beyond churches in Connecticut to dozens throughout the United States.

It is an active ministry at St. Margaret of Scotland Church in Green Tree. Anyone who is in physical, spiritual or emotional stress and would benefit from having a prayer shawl is invited to ask for one. The shawls are available at the back of the church or at the church office. The shawls are made with prayers and love by St. Margaret volunteers and are available at no charge.

Shawls and yarn kits are available at the church. The shawls can be knitted or crocheted. Yarn donations are gratefully accepted by the group as well. The shawls come in all shapes and sizes. Some are lap robe size, or rectangular or triangular. Some have fringe; others may be pastel in color which are usually used for babies in need. A soft yarn is used; patterns are available online or from the group's collection of patterns; some volunteers design their own patterns. A prayer card is inserted with each shawl, which is first blessed by the pastor at St. Margaret's.

It is a reminder of God's presence and the hope that the person receiving the shawl is wrapped in peace, love and a feeling of joy.

To volunteer or to request a shawl, call Lynne Gross at 412-303-0631.

The prayer shawl ministry of Holy Child/St. Barbara's Parishes meets for a group sew on the first Wednesday of the month at 1 p.m. in the rectory conference room of Holy Child Parish, Bridgeville. To help, call Mary Jane Longo at 412-221-1087.

Since 2005, the Sisterhood Knitters of Beth El Congregation, Scott, have given more than 2,500 scarves, hats, chemotherapy caps, preemie hats, afghans, lap blankets and shawls to six different agencies in the Pittsburgh area. For more details, email

For more information, visit Bristow's and Galo's website at They have also now published companion books of designs, patterns and prayers which are available through the site.

Wrapped in Love blankets

A similar program of comfort is sponsored by the Pittsburgh 501(c)(3) group called Wrapped in Love. Volunteers make blankets of all types — handmade quilts, crocheted/knitted, no-sew polar fleece and handmade — which are donated to patients suffering from cancer or serious illnesses in area hospitals. A group meets on the second Tuesday of each month from 2-4 p.m. at the Bridgeville Library. Another group meets monthly on the third Tuesday from 6-8 p.m. at the Crafton Library. For more information, visit

Charlotte Smith is a Tribune-Review contributing writer. Reach her at 724-693-9441 or

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