Prayer Shawls: A Rich History of Prayer, Empathy, and Compassion


By Alison Bradish

The Prayer Shawl Ministry at Christ the King Parish in Regina is a reminder to those who are struggling that they are not alone or forgotten.

Linda Lucyk is the coordinator of the Ministry of Care at the parish located near three public care homes and numerous private care homes. Many parishioners, due to age and health restrictions, are unable to make it to the pews.

She says the Prayer Shawl Ministry, made up of six to eight parishioners at any given time, is an important part of a multi-pronged approach to bring comfort to those whose lives have become even more isolated and anxiety-ridden due to Covid-19.

Lucyk knows what the ministry means to those who serve and are served by it, and she notes the rich history of the prayer shawl tradition.

Jesus, as a Jewish man, would have worn one. There are numerous passages in the bible which reference the Tallit, the cloak worn, including Numbers 15: 37-41. Jewish men would have worn these shawls while living in pagan cultures to represent being set aside for devotion to God.

In Matthew 9:20-22, the miracle of the afflicted woman who suffered from hemorrhaging for 12 years, the woman in the passage says, “If only I could touch his cloak, I shall be cured.” Jesus turns around and says, “Courage, daughter! Your faith has saved you.” From that moment on, the woman is healed.

In modern times, prayer shawl ministry has evolved out of communities of faith to support people of all ages suffering from illness, grief, trauma, life transitions, addictions, and mental illness.

Lucyk says the shawls can represent different things for different people.

“The message we want to communicate is that they are part of our family at Christ the King Parish and that they are loved by God and not forgotten by us and they are valuable to us and that we honour this stage of their journey and their life, whatever that entails,” she says.

The recipients are also requested to offer their prayers and sufferings for the needs of the parish and faith community.

The knitters are empathetic to the struggles of others; many of them have gone through loss and painful life transitions themselves.  

“Even through their life’s journey, often very difficult and challenging, they continue to knit. Many of them are motivated through their own suffering to help alleviate the suffering of others,” says Lucyk.

The shawls are gathered and blessed two times a year, usually at the Compassionate Healers Mass or in conjunction with World Day of the Sick. At the same time, the Lay Pastoral Visitors and those working in healthcare are also anointed for their ministry.

The whole congregation sees the care and concern for those not present through the beauty of the shawls during the event. When the work is on display, there are times people ask how to buy the shawls.

“We do have to explain to people that like prayer itself that cannot be purchased, prayer shawls are given freely as an expression of our prayer ministry. As the knitter knits, they will pray for the person who will receive the shawl,” says Lucyk.

Melissa Gurash is an avid knitter and a former parishioner of Christ the King, who now attends Holy Rosary Cathedral, where she continues to knit prayer shawls.

She explains the difference between a knitted prayer shawl and a blanket, is the intention behind the item.

“I remember making a prayer shawl for a man who was going for surgery. He passed away before receiving it, but the wife wanted the shawl. It’s a tactile thing. It’s a prayer you can feel in the item. The Holy Spirit is working through me, or whoever’s hand is making it. The prayers are knit into it, so they feel those prayers,” she says.

Gurash says she is impressed by the continued growth of the ministry at Christ the King and hopes it inspires other parishes to provide similar outreach.

“Some of the feedback I’ve heard over the years is ‘when this person put this prayer shawl on, they said ‘oh I just feel like God is giving me a hug’,” says Gurash.

“On earth, we are God’s hands and feet, and that is one of the ways we can do God’s work, knitting prayer shawls,” she says.

More information about the Prayer Shawl Ministry will be featured during the next episode of The Diocese Tonight which aired on Sunday, November 1, 2020.

Page URL: