The Women of Stitches of Love are hard at working knitting baptismal stoles, hats and scarves. (Franchesca Caputo photo)
The Women of Stitches of Love are hard at working knitting baptismal stoles, hats and scarves. (Franchesca Caputo photo)
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Truly this is a labor of love.

Stitches of Love, which began as a group of three women in ­October in St. Luke’s Church in Schenectady, has created hundreds of colorful baptismal stoles to welcome newborns into the Church, along with plenty of hats and scarves to keep those in need warm during the harsh winter months. 

It all started as an idea of Father Dominic Isopo, who wanted to welcome new members with a handmade, welcoming blanket instead of a manufactured one. 

Nancy Massaroni, the leader of the group, is “very proud” to be a part of a team that now numbers approximately 14 members who produce such a high volume of handmade goods. Each child who is baptized in the parish will receive a handmade baptismal blanket. 

“They also receive a baptismal stole, made by our group, and we bag them up, add a prayer card, on the back there are care instructions. We never use wool and it can be washed or dried in a machine,” Massaroni said. 

In addition to the baptismal stoles, during the holidays the group produced hats and scarves for people in need. Within the span of just nine weeks, the team created more than 400 hats and scarves that were then distributed to St. Luke’s Daily Bread Food Pantry gifting program. According to Massaroni, the group created more than 500 gift bags during the Christmas season, thanks to the generosity of St. Luke’s parishioners. Each bag included a knitted hat for a needy child.

Massaroni said about half of the group works from home, oftentimes stopping in at the parish to pick up yarn, while some reside in Florida during the winter and send their garments to New York once they’re finished. One member took up making hats on slow nights at work. 

“She must have made over 150 hats herself, on a loom, and she just learned it. She worked at a bar at night and when it was slow she would fill out those hats. She said it was the greatest thing for her; she loved doing it.” Massaroni said. 

The group made the seemingly natural transition into adding a prayer shawl ministry to their good works.

“And it’s hard to say when someone’s sick, but perhaps there’s a person you know of, who is going through a bad time, hardship, could be illness, but in need of knowing that they are not alone. That someone is reaching out to them, and there’s prayers being offered to them,” Massaroni explained. “You can bring the gift of the prayer shawl.” 

Constructing the prayer shawl or stole is where the “ministry” aspect comes in. When working on the piece, knitters or crocheters will pray either silently to themselves or out loud in a group setting. Massaroni said she often finds herself praying at night when she is alone. 

“You just think of the person, maybe during a commercial on your favorite TV program, you just kind of infuse it with a little prayer and good feeling and you think about the person it might be going to.” Massaroni said. 

Although the group’s involvement in prayer ministry is new, Massaroni says the gift she receives is “their tearful thank you” and “of the many people I’ve encountered we’ve given prayer shawls to, [they] always say that when they put it on, they receive a warmth and a joy.” 

Massaroni talks about how the parish organist was diagnosed with cancer and going through chemotherapy. After receiving the prayer shawl, “she just says to me ‘I can’t tell you, it’s on my chair all the time. As soon as I put it on there’s a total comfort feeling I get from it and it just grounds me.’ ” 

Lap robes aren’t a big afghan “like you might think grandma made,” Massaroni explained. Instead, they are small enough to tote with you in a bag and put over your legs. 

The children and adults who receive the baptismal stoles and prayer shawls aren’t the only ones who benefit from this ministry. 

“It’s almost selfish to say, but you get so much out of it. First of all, there’s a lot of camaraderie, there’s a lot of exchange of ideas, but the sense when you see one of the babies with the blanket wrapped up...it’s so gratifying,” Massaroni said.

“People look at it and they go, ‘Oh, how could you do all that work and give it away, and you don’t even know who you’re giving it to,’ but there’s so much gratification in knowing that someone out there has something filled with a lot of love and warmth and care,” she added. “It’s a nice feeling. It’s a great feeling.”

St. Luke’s Roman Catholic Church of Schenectady Stitches of Love ministry invites members to join the group on Wednesdays from 12:30 to 3:30 p.m.