Knitting needles, crochet hooks and prayers

Immaculate Conception’s prayer shawl ministry comforts many

By John Wolcott

When Seattle archdiocesan priest Father Paul Dalton died suddenly in 2008, one person who grieved especially deeply was his brother, Father Jim Dalton, then pastor of Immaculate Conception Parish in Arlington.

Shawl makers at Immaculate Conception Parish in Arlington
Prayer shawl makers at Immaculate Conception Parish in Arlington include Sheila Larsen, left, Sharon Goetz, Darlene Goodwin, Muriel Place, Diane Marshall, Judie Doiron and Glenda Rondeau. Photo: John Wolcott

Soon afterward, he received a prayer shawl in the mail. “I don’t know who sent it, but I realized there was a whole ministry behind it,” Father Dalton said.

Knitted or crocheted, the prayer shawl is worn for spiritual comfort as well as physical warmth. Each shawl is prayed over during its making and is blessed by a priest before it is given away.

“I always kept it on the back of my chair,” Father Dalton said of his prayer shawl. “It was everything I needed just to get in touch with Paul, or any other time just for comfort. I felt really blessed by the gift of that shawl.”

Later, he mentioned the shawl to parishioner Jane Radermacher, who picked up on the idea and started the prayer shawl ministry at Immaculate Conception in 2009.

In the close-knit parish community of some 500 families, where parishioners were particularly aware of their pastor’s mourning, the gift of the prayer shawl sparked a warm response that continues to spread kindness.

Each week, 10 or 12 women gather at the church equipped with knitting needles, crochet hooks and yards of yarn. A group prayer opens the session, and then their prayerful work begins.

“During the couple of hours we meet each week, we pray as we make each one, along with much socializing,” said Judie Doiron, who’s been faithful to the ministry for four years. “We’ve made them for sick babies and children, for cancer patients and those who have lost parents or loved ones,” she said. “We’ve made 274 shawls since 2009.”

Their pastor, Father Tim Sauer, blesses the finished shawls, and carries some of them in his car for visits to hospital patients. Others are delivered to the homebound by volunteers. “We’ve even given them to those who are incarcerated at the Denny Youth Center in Everett,” said Sharon Goetz, who’s been involved in the group for three years.

The ministry is meaningful to the shawl makers, too. “It’s comforting for us because our hands are doing something prayerful as we work,” Goetz said.
Learn more about prayer shawls and their history at

October 23, 2013