The Prayer Shawl
A Garment, Blessed, That Provides Love, Healing, And Comfort
Understandably, when Easton resident, Linda (Bosse) Charron, was diagnosed with invasive breast cancer in May 2007, she was in deep emotional distress.
Linda and her husband, Joe Charron, had just had their second child, a daughter, Jillian, a few months before, in January. They also had a son, Jared, who was two months shy of his fifth birthday.
Linda needed a boost of remarkable comfort and warmth, and it showed up at her door in the person of Roberta Hobaica, who had recently finished up a successful round of treatment for her own breast cancer. Roberta Hobaica had with her a prayer shawl, a small blanket to which was pinned a cross.
The shawl had been knitted by the Prayer Shawl Ministry at Holy Cross Church in South Easton, and was given to Roberta in July ’06 to have with her as she went through treatment. Roberta was now giving the prayer shawl (a photo of which is attached here) to Linda.
“That prayer shawl has meant so much to me; it gave me comfort, inspiration, and encouragement,” said Roberta, who had been diagnosed with breast cancer in May ‘06. “The Prayer Shawl Ministry at Holy Cross Church knits prayer shawls every week. When the Prayer Shawl Ministry heard about my cancer, it delivered to me a prayer shawl. That shawl was always with me throughout my chemotherapy and radiation treatments.”
Prayer shawls are a tradition in Christianity and Judaism. The making, knitting, or crocheting, of a shawl – an artifact of faith – is a spiritual practice and is attended by prayer. Prayer shawls are of different colors. Christian prayer shawls may have crosses or crucifixes attached. Prayer shawls may also have beads or jewelry sewn on or affixed in other manners. Prayer shawls are made by individuals, and ministries, such as the Prayer Shawl Ministry at Holy Cross Church, which was founded and is directed by long-time Easton resident, Patricia “Pat” Brophy.
Prayer shawls are given freely to those in need to provide comfort and to help people feel and connect to God’s love.
Roberta Hobaica and her husband, Henry, have lived in Easton since 1972, and brought up four children in town, all of whom graduated from Oliver Ames High School. Roberta and Henry will celebrate their 50th wedding anniversary this coming August. They are members Holy Cross Church.
“I had heard about Linda Bosse, and I knew that she must have been in a very difficult emotional state,” said Roberta. “So I just had to stop by and give her the shawl. It gave me tremendous comfort during my treatment; it was my companion night and day. I wanted Linda to know and experience this comfort and love.”
Linda Charron began her treatment.
“I had a lumpectomy done, and that removed the tumor totally,” said Linda, a 1987 OA grad, who has been married to Joe Charron (Southeastern Regional ’90) for 10 years. “But I also went through a chemotherapy as an insurance policy – and that was very difficult. And I made the choice to have a double mastectomy, which ensured that I could not get breast cancer again.”
Linda says that for her, like with Roberta Hobaica, the prayer shawl was a constant companion.
“It was always with me,” said Linda. “At home, I wrapped it around me. I had it with me through all the tests and MRIs. When you do chemo, the medicines that flow through you can chill you, make you cold, and having the shawl around me provided me physical, emotional, and spiritual comfort.”
Linda says she would hold on to the cross attached to the shawl and pray. She went to Holy Cross Church and obtained more prayer shawls, perhaps six or seven, and she gave these to other people who live locally and who were dealing with illness.
“The prayer shawls are for comfort and healing, for any type of illness, physical or emotional,” said Linda. “You can go to Holy Cross Church and get a shawl. If you want, but it is not required, you can make a donation to the Prayer Shawl Ministry.”
The prayer shawl in which Roberta Hobaica and Linda Bosse wrapped themselves, and which they clutched, and to which they held as they prayed, would be given yet again to an Easton woman, who would benefit from the spirit and strength that flowed from it.
Chrissy DeLoughry received her bad news on Friday afternoon, Dec.13, 2007.
“I remember the date; two days before was my 39th birthday,” said Chrissy.
Chrissy and her husband of six years, Dan, both of whom are OA ’86 grads, were on the Southeast Expressway heading north, a few minutes from Boston; they were going up to Maine for a couple days. Chrissy had recently detected a lump in her breast, and had gone to see her doctor, and a biopsy had been done.
“My cell phone rang, and it was my doctor,” Chrissy recalls. “He told me the news, that the biopsy showed cancer. Of course, this hit me hard, and it was so scary. Dan was driving, and he asked me what I wanted him to do – if we should turn around and go home – and I said, no, let’s just keep going to Maine, which we did.”
When she took that phone call, Chrissy and Dan had a one year old, Patrick. Chrissy also had a son, Jimmy, 20, from a previous marriage.
Over the next few weeks, Chrissy, with Dan at her side, did the appointments, more tests, meetings, opinion finding, and consultations, as a decision was arrived as to what treatment she would pursue.
And early on, in fact by Jan. 1, 2008, she had with her the prayer shawl, which had been given to her by her long-time friend, Linda (Bosse) Charron. Chrissy underwent more biopsies and had surgery early in Feb. 2008.
She went through chemo and radiation therapy, and she had the prayer shawl with her throughout.
“I had the chemo treatments at Beth Israel in Boston,” said Chrissy. “Each treatment required me to be at the hospital for almost an entire day, and I always had the prayer shawl with me. I put in on my lap as I sat there and the drugs were administered. It gave me support and helped me through a difficult episode.”
Chrissy, like Roberta and Linda, responded well to her treatment. The cancer went away.
And someone else would soon need and benefit from the prayer shawl.
“I was very fortunate; my treatment went well,” said Chrissy. “And not long after I finished chemo and radiation, I received a call from Ann-Margaret Hobaica, who was living in Texas, who said she knew someone who had been recently diagnosed with breast cancer, and she would like to give the prayer shawl to this woman.
“I, of course, said, sure – but I must tell you it was tough to part with the shawl.”
Ann-Margaret (Hobaica) Dudley is Roberta Hobaica’s daughter. Ann- Margaret lives in Houston with her husband, James, and their two children, Henry, 5, and Will, 3. The week prior to Ann-Margaret and her family moving to Houston, her mother was diagnosed with cancer.
“I flew up to Boston to be with my mother for her chemo treatments,” said Ann-Margaret. “I remember always having the prayer shawl on her shoulders when in the hospital and undergoing the treatments. It really moved me, and it made me happy, seeing how that shawl supported and helped my mother during this period.”
When a good friend of Ann-Margaret’s husband’s mother was diagnosed with breast cancer, Ann-Margaret knew she had to get the prayer shawl to the woman. And she did. The woman loved the shawl. She had it with her during treatment. She is 47 years old, and has just received a clean bill of health.
The shawl has hit the road once more. Ann-Margaret heard that a neighbor’s sister who is living in New Orleans, has cancer, and she sent the prayer shawl to the woman.
This prayer shawl has done some comforting and some healing – and it continues to do so.
It also seems to have connected people to a higher power.
Roberta Hobaica knows this. Roberta, who spends winters in Florida with her husband, is doing great. She is finishing up, this month, five years of a chemo drug regimen – and will be considered in remission at the end of the month.
“The prayer shawl is the gift that keeps on giving,” said Roberta. “It reminds and shows us that the love of the Holy Spirit is always with us.”
That is for sure – and there is no better a notion to keep in mind during Christmastime, and anytime throughout the year, every year.