Marie Chubrilo Weaving a prayer

8/25/2007
Prayer Shawl Ministry
Karen Mahoney

Marie Chubrilo was a young girl when she took up crocheting.

The crochet needle and vivid bundles of yarn became comforting companions as Marie dealt with the blow of losing her young husband. It was 1953, and Marie was left to raise their three children by herself.

Marie, now 95, taught Kindergarten at Grant School for 25 years, and spent countless hours volunteering in the Kenosha community and at St. Elizabeth Catholic Church, her home parish.

Crocheting became her way of passing the time, and is an art that Marie continues to do today. Over the years, she has crocheted intricate baby blankets and afghans for nearly every member of her family, including friends, and boyfriends and spouses of her children and grandchildren. But it wasn’t until she learned of a way to share her faith while creating the colorful works of art, that Marie felt the most fulfilled.

Tenderly weaving the hues together, Marie prays for the recipient of her crocheted masterpiece, as she is a busy member of the St. Elizabeth prayer shawl ministry. A ministry patterned after one begun in 1998 by Janet Bristow and Victoria Galo after a Women’s Leadership Institute in Hartford, CN. The two women combined compassion with their love of knitting and crocheting into a prayerful ministry to reach out to those in need of comfort and solace, health and healing. Many blessings are prayed into every shawl.

The shawl maker begins with prayers and blessings for each recipient and upon completion, a final blessing is offered before the shawl is sent on its way

After learning about the ministry two years ago, Marie has crocheted more than 100 since the program began; an impressive accomplishment, stated St. Elizabeth Pastoral Director
Marybeth Dreschler.

“Just from June 2006 to June 2007, we had 93 prayer shawls made, and out of those Marie made 45 and the other 48 shawls took seven people to make,” she said.

The shawls are given to people undergoing medical procedures, as a comfort after a loss or in times of stress, and to the elderly of St. Elizabeth’s who may be in need of some loving kindness.

“We are a parish of elderly, homebound and those in assisted living or nursing homes,” said Dreschler. “After I heard about this prayer shawl ministry at an Association of Pastoral Ministers on Aging, I thought it was good because whoever knits or crochets them prays for the recipient. It is tangible for older adults who can’t make it to church; when they look at it, they know we are praying for them.”

After driving herself to daily Mass and tending to her household chores, Marie takes the donated yarn and crochet needle and plans her unique style of afghan. She develops her own pattern and color combinations to create the 24 by 60 inch shawl. Each design takes about a week to complete, if she is feeling well.

“I always think that somebody in the family needs prayers and while I am crocheting, I can pray for them,” she said. “I also pray that I can keep going and that my health will make it, and truthfully, there are days when I pray that I can keep up and finish the shawl. So far I have finished.”

Her daughter Beth Zoephel of Kenosha reminds Marie that despite her occasional health problems, God isn’t finished with her yet, so she has to continue creating her prayer shawls.

“She also hasn’t taught me to do this yet and there is nobody to take over, so she has to do it” laughed Zoephel. “I have tried to crochet a couple of times, but it just hasn’t sunk in—I can’t seem to understand how to pick up a stitch yet.”

There’s something comforting, Marie will tell you, about putting so much time and love into something that will bring someone else joy. She may never meet these people or know their need, but the volunteers and staff at the hospitals, nursing homes or hospices do. Dreschler sees to it that those in need of a special prayer, whether they are terminally ill patients or those who are grieving, receive a prayer shawl.

“For those who are grieving, or suffering, it is something concrete to help them feel like God is with them,” Dreshler admitted, adding, “It is really a circle of love, where one person helps another and the blessings come back to the person who made the shawl.”

Often, Marie receives thank you notes or phone calls from recipients who were moved by the prayer shawl.

“It just gives me the shivers,” she said. “They are so surprised to receive them and they thank me over and over for making it for them. The notes are very touching and make me cry too. The whole time I am working on the shawl, I think that maybe a man would like this or maybe a lady would appreciate these colors, sometimes it turns out pretty and cheerful and someone may enjoy the cheerfulness—and it seems that the shawl goes to just the right person.”

According to daughter Anita Kostas, also of Kenosha, the opportunity to create the shawls gives her mother something meaningful to do.

“There is a lot of love and prayers going into these shawls,” she said. “Mom says a daily rosary and it gives these people something to hope with. A comfort in knowing that someone is praying for them, they feel the warmth and strength in the shawls.”

The blessings in making the shawls are as great as the prayers going into the shawl, and for Marie, it is her way of giving to others.

“I am limited as to what I can do, so I am so thankful that I have the honor to make them,’ she said. “I am very blessed as I do this for others.”

For more information on beginning a Prayer Shawl Ministry, contact Marybeth Dreschler at St. Elizabeth Church, 262-657-1156 ext 104.

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