Wisconsin Rapids Deanery

of the Diocese of La Crosse, Wisconsin

Fr. John Swing

Reflections from Bolivia

The story of Bendigna and the
prayer shawl from Wisconsin

By Fr. John Swing
January 2009

The prayer shawl ministry has brought warmth and comfort, reassurance and hope to many people who are in need of healing.

The parishes of Sacred Heart and St. Alexander’s of Nekoosa/Port Edwards were looking for a way to extend their prayer shawl ministry. As they knit the shawl, a prayer was said for each stitch that was made. The prayer was said for the person who would eventually receive the shawl.

The shawls were blessed at Mass and then taken to people who needed healing.

As the shawl is placed on the person, the blessing speaks of warmth and comfort and security. “May the warmth of this shawl and of this prayer give you strength, peace and hope.”

In the pastoral visit to our mission parish in Santa Cruz, Bolivia, I brought some of these shawls to be given to Santa Cruz parishioners.

Bendigna with Fr. Ed PenchiOn Saturday morning, January 17, 2009, Fr. Ed Penchi took me to several parishioners who were confined to their homes.

One of the people we visited was Bendigna. We met her sitting on a chair in their open-air patio with her walker at her side. Her daughter lived with her to take care of her. As I placed the shawl over her shoulders, she seemed so honored, so grateful and pleased. I told her that the shawl looked so nice on her. Its color stood out and seemed to fit her perfectly.

Then I blessed her and told her that the ladies in my parishes were praying for her and that they made this shawl for her. She was delighted.

On Monday, January 19, Bendigna died. We had her funeral on Tuesday. So the prayers from the shawl ministry were not only carried to Bolivia, but to heaven, where I am sure Bendigna is sharing her broad, beautiful smile with the angels. May she rest in peace.

Bendigna with Fr. John Swing

More of Fr. John's reflections from Bolivia