In recent years, many medical facilities, including York Hospital, have embraced the practice of presenting lap shawls to patients when a patient or family member is going through a particularly difficult time, perhaps suffering from what can feel like a siege of life-altering medical issues or losses or facing a long road of rehab ahead. Shawls or throws can be presented for joyous occasions too: the birth of a baby, an anniversary, or simply a “gift” to brighten a patient’s day.

At York Hospital, a regular source of these wonderful shawls is the Prayer Shawl Ministry of Corpus Christi Parish in Portsmouth. This group is coordinated by Elaine Wilder, who met York Hospital Chaplain June Kapitan several years ago when they were both volunteering at area rehab and nursing facilities. June had initially learned about prayer shawl ministries while doing a clinical pastoral education rotation and she saw the powerful impact they had on patients. The subject of prayer shawls came up in conversation between June and Elaine, and Elaine’s group, as well as several other individuals, have supplied York Hospital’s Spiritual Care team with shawls ever since. Members of the Corpus Christi group pictured above include: Pat Barbour, Barbara Brown, Cheri Davis, Cynthia Gagnon, Alice Holding, Louise Novak, Andrea Vibbert, and Elaine Wilder.

Volunteers who knit and crochet these throws—some brightly colored, others in more neutral, muted tones—frequently, but not always belong to a group such as the group at Corpus Christi Parish in Portsmouth that identifies itself as a Prayer Shawl Ministry. Usually women belong to the group, but anyone who wants to share their love of knitting or crocheting, to offer the feeling of being wrapped and enfolded in prayer and love to another, can join. If religion is an important part of a patient’s life, Chaplain June notes that volunteers often say that “every stitch is a prayer” for the one who receives it. If the patient is not religious, the shawl can be called a comfort shawl or a gesture of tender loving care. In either case, a shawl can truly be a comfort and a blessing: the work of loving hearts and hands with the specific intention of bringing comfort and a tangible reminder of loving care from the community or from a higher power.

For more information about spiritual care services at York Hospital, please call (207) 361-3647 or visit our spiritual support page.