By Pat Shea
A year ago, Franciscan Sister Alvera O’Grady, 91, a resident at Franciscan Villa on Buckley Road in Liverpool, watched with interest as aide Amanda LaFrance, 26, created a knitted hat on a loom.
“I asked her what she was doing and she explained that in her free time she made hats for St. Joseph’s Hospital. I asked her if she could teach me how to do it too, and she did,” explained Sister Alvera. “It was pretty easy to do and you can get the kit to do it at Walmart. A few of the other sisters saw me creating the hats and they wanted to know how to do it, and before long we had a group together.”
What began as a hobby has grown into a ministry for this “tight-knit” group of sisters.
“As we started making more and more hats we were blessed with a donation of yarn. We then began donating the hats to those in need,” explained Sister Alvera. “We are following the mission of St. Francis who loved the poor. As Franciscan sisters it’s good to offer up this work to help others keep warm.”
During the past year the sisters have created and donated hundreds of hats in a rainbow of colors. “Some of us can make them quickly, others need a little more time, but every hat goes to good use,” explained Sister Alvera.
The sisters have created and donated hats to Catholic Charities, to Elmcrest Elementary School, to St. Joseph’s Hospital for cancer patients and Joseph House for the newborns, as well as many other groups, organizations and individuals.
“We recently created 25 hats in pink and red for our mission school, St. Rose of Lima, in Peru,” stated Sister Alvera. “People really like these hats. We have different groups call and request the hats for those in need. Once they make the request I let the sisters know and then everyone gets to work.”
Sister Eleanor Grace Spiridilozzi, 85, one of the “knitting nuns,” has made approximately 100 hats in the past year and enjoys each and every project.
“I feel really happy when I am making them,” said Sister Eleanor Grace. “Whenever I make a hat, I say prayers and ask God for blessings for the person who will wear it.”
Sister Martha Torbik, 60, who recently came to Franciscan Villa from North Carolina, has been working on her first hat over the past two weeks. “When I saw Sister Alvera and the other sisters making these hats I wanted to know how to do it too,” explained Sister Martha. “My sisters always crocheted and knitted and I wanted to learn, but when they tried to teach me, they went too fast. This is much easier. And whenever I work on the hat it reminds of when Jesus said, ‘If someone doesn’t have a coat, give him one of yours.’”
“If we had a tag line for this ministry it would be ‘in every stitch there is a prayer,’” stated Sister Eleanor Grace.