Palettes of Prayer

Creative pursuits of all types allow us to express thoughts and feelings that can sometimes be difficult to put into words. Color, form, texture or sound can take us to a place beyond language as we continually seek transcendent experiences that elevate, challenge and inspire.

Many Sisters of the Precious Blood make art and crafts, and while the forms of their creations vary widely — carving, painting, quilting, singing and many more — they share in common a means of communion with others, and a way to reflect the beauty of God.

Quilting, sewing, spinning, crochet, knitting, weaving and handmade greeting cards — Sister Mary Lou Schmersal enjoys a broad spectrum of activities that combine form and function to create an object that is both beautiful and useful. When an item is given away, it also represents a connection between the maker and the recipient, adding a sense of presence and prayer.

Sister Mary Lou learned to sew as a child and developed an interest in a variety of fiber arts. In 2011, she initiated the Warm Cap Project at her parish, St. Michael the Archangel in Findlay, Ohio. Today, around two dozen ladies utilize knitting, crochet and loom knitting to create caps, scarves and mittens in a wide range of colors and styles.

“The goal was to engage adults in the parish and in the area in an activity that would benefit others,” Sister Mary Lou said. “Almost all the yarn we use has been donated, and over time we have created thousands of items and distribute them to several dozen agencies each year.”

Ladies meet monthly to pray, discuss organizational details and share what they have made. In recent months during the pandemic, they have conducted meetings online or, when the weather has been nice, they have met in the church parking lot so that they could maintain social distancing but still gather in person.

The group continually brainstorms to think of organizations that might accept donated caps. “We have a large parish, so we have lots of connections with health care agencies, cancer centers, hospice, schools, the homeless shelter, local police department and many more,” Sister Mary Lou said. “It’s just a matter of noticing what the needs are in the area and then getting in touch with people.”

She said the project also gives older people a chance to benefit others even when they themselves are not able to get out.

Aside from the Warm Caps Project, Sister Mary Lou also makes caps for a soup kitchen in Toledo to give to anyone who might need them, and for Sister Jean René Hoying to distribute to homeless shelters in the Dayton area. Sister Pat Gist also joined Sister Mary Lou in making nearly 300 face masks, which were given to a variety of groups and individuals, such as a local doctor’s office and a number of Precious Blood Sisters.

“It just depends on what the needs are,” she said. “All of my activities tap into a creative space that moves me to prayer and appreciation for color, nature, insight and awareness beyond myself.”

Story by Mary Knapke

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