The St. Louis Contemplative Sisters have formed a baby blanket ministry through a crochet club they created. The purpose of the baby blanket ministry is to save babies from abortion. The Sisters say that giving baby blankets to pregnant women who are considering abortions lets them know that someone cares about them. This simple gesture helps the women feel less alone and has been the catalyst for changing some women’s minds about ending their baby’s life.
“We show our support to the mothers by letting them know their babies are valuable and need to live. Our baby blanket ministry might help the mothers make a better decision for their babies,” said Sr. Elizabeth Garciano.
The Sisters give the baby blankets to Birthright, a pro-life agency in St. Louis. Birthright then distributes the blankets to mothers they are counseling about their pregnancies.
Rose Vierdag met Sr. Josephine four years ago at an evening Mass being held at Marygrove, where Sr. Josephine lived with the Florissant contemplative community before being missioned to Immaculate Heart. Today Rose visits Sr. Josephine every two weeks to pick up blankets the crochet club has made for Birthright.
“A lot of times women get into a pinch and think they can’t keep their babies. Then they get this little gift from the Sisters and realize that someone cares about them. It changes their lives and their attitudes toward their unborn children. The Sisters are saving many babies’ lives by crocheting afghans,” Rose said.
The baby blanket ministry began with Sr. Josephine. Prior to being missioned to Marygrove and later to Immaculate Heart, she had been living in community with the contemplative Sisters in Baltimore. It was there that she became connected with a pro-life agency and first began making blankets as a way to stop mothers from aborting their babies. When she moved to St. Louis she knew would need to find a connection in order to keep the ministry going.
“That’s when Rose came along. The Holy Spirit led Rose to me so I could continue the ministry in St. Louis. We met at a 7 p.m. Mass and everything unfolded from there,” said Sr. Josephine.
The ministry soon spread throughout the contemplative community. As Sr. Josephine sat with the other Sisters in recreation night after night with her crochet hook in hand and yarn in lap, new energy began to stir.
“I watched Sr. Josephine crochet beautiful baby blankets while we all watched TV together, and I kept thinking that I wanted to do that too,” said Sr. Elizabeth.
Sr. Josephine taught Sr. Beth how to crochet and now she says she is passionate about making the blankets. Sr. Michaella Kim also became inspired. She said, “When Sr. Josephine told me about the baby blanket ministry it touched me. I didn’t know how to crochet, but I wanted to learn so I could support the babies.”
Each club member brings her own intention and prayer to the ministry.
“I pray in honor of Jesus’ Holy infancy. When I start working, I say to Him, ‘I offer this blanket to your baby brother or sister. May this blanket I make keep the baby warm wrapped in your loving mercy.’
“With every stitch, I pray that the mothers who receive our blankets will keep their children and that the babies will be born feeling God’s love through the blanket that covers him,” said Sr. Elizabeth.
Sr. Agnes also prays to the infant Jesus as she crochets. She said, “The blanket is a material symbol for how we want the baby to receive God’s warmth and love.”
Sr. Michaella said, “The crochet ministry strengthens my vocation. Through my vocation a mom’s heart may be touched to love her precious baby and feel the love of God.”
The Sisters don’t work from crochet patterns. They create their own designs and use odds and ends of yarn, depending on what they have on hand, which sometimes isn’t enough to complete their blankets.
Last month production came to a halt when the club ran out of yarn. Sr. Josephine sought the help of her friend Rose, who posted an announcement in the Christmas bulletin of the Sacred Heart parish in Florissant, asking for yarn in honor of the sacred Baby Jesus.
“The response to the announcement was incredible. On December 18 Rose brought us boxes of beautiful soft yarn so we could finish making baby blankets in time for Christmas. She also surprised us with a delicious fruitcake from the Sacred Heart Parish,” said Sr. Josephine.
”Most people think Contemplative Sisters only pray, but that just isn’t the way it is. Like our apostolic Sisters, we also take the vow of zeal and put love into action to make the world a better place, “ said Sr. Elizabeth.
There are currently four members in the crochet club who maintain the baby blanket ministry. The club is intergenerational and multicultural. Members range in age from 40-95 and were born in the Philippines, Korea, Japan and USA. Anyone can join the crochet club. Members don’t have to be women religious or live in St. Louis. There are no meetings or gatherings to attend. Club members are united in the ministry through prayer.