By Mary Billups and Maureen Smith
MERIDIAN – Back in 2016, the Catholic Community of Meridian launched a new ministry in response to Pope Francis’s Jubilee Year of Mercy. Seeking to respond to the Gospel challenge of “clothe the naked,” the members of the newly formed Merciful Mufflers gathered weekly to knit and crochet more than 150 scarves, hats and hand-warmers for the homeless and those fleeing domestic violence. The ministry then looked inward to its own parishioners, and for the past two years has provided prayer shawls and lap robes for the home-bound, the ill, and their caregivers.
“People have called and told me they were moved to tears when they received a blanket because someone thought of them,” said Pam Walston, who has been with the group from the beginning. “This (ministry) drew the parish together. Sometimes when people get older, they think you have forgotten them, especially if they can’t come to church anymore,” she explained. The blankets and scarves are a tangible reminder of their connection to their faith community. She said the original group had about five members but continues to grow each year. The group worked together to create a blanket for pastor Father Augustine Palimattam.
They only meet during the school year and each year they pick a particular project.
They instituted the tradition of giving hand-made white baby blankets to the infants newly baptized into St. Patrick and St. Joseph parishes. “Mary (Billups) has all these wonderful ideas – she genuinely wants to reach out and draw the community together,” said Walston.
The members’ mercy-driven commitment has further expanded to encompass Meridian’s Center for Pregnancy Choices, where the ministry provided layettes consisting of baby blankets, baby caps and booties for the infants, along with beautiful scarves for the mothers, all delivered in special tote bags.
“Everything we make comes with a prayer of one kind or another and sometimes a medal or something else,” said Walston. The group is about more than just the handiwork. The last half-hour of every meeting is dedicated to prayer for those in need, including those who will receive the blankets.
The parish helps with supplies, but members also participate. One member crocheted a bedspread this year that was auctioned off. The money raised went back into the ministry.
Beginning in January 2019, this ministry will work to fashion lap-size afghans for those dependent upon dialysis for their continued well-being. Walston encourages others to join. She said the members have all different skill levels in knitting and crochet and members help one another with projects.
For more information, or to begin a group like this one, contact Mary Billups at 601-693-1321 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
(Mary Billups is the director of adult faith formation for the Catholic Community of Meridian.)