Prayer Blankets Wrap Patients in Love

Prayer Blankets Wrap Patients in Love

The Rev. Art Lillicrapp, Manager of Spiritual Care Services for Kaiser Permanente in South Sacramento, has been working with the congregations of St. Martin's, Davis, Our Saviour, Placerville, Shiloh Baptist Church and other volunteers to provide prayer blankets to ailing patients and their families through the "Caring Heart" program. Below are some of his experiences with and thoughts about this important ministry.

photos courtesy of the congregation of Our Saviour, Placerville

A 22-year-old woman with metastatic thyroid cancer enters surgery in great fear, and lists "no preference" as her religious affiliation. A pre-surgical chaplain doing his rounds asks me to meet her and spend time listening to her fears about her surgery and beyond. She was a person who had been severely abused in foster care years ago, and the experience left deep scars. Distrust, despair and depression were her daily "friends." She loved cats, animals -- almost anything non-human. As she was being wheeled into surgery, I gave her a prayer blanket from Our Saviours, and she held onto it like someone to a buoy lost at sea. She still had the blanket after surgery, and then in her room. She said, "I guess I still don't believe, but something is different. This blanket made me feel that if there is a God, He's warm and I guess never leaves."

After a motorcycle accident, a 27-year-old male patient became a leg amputee and spent three months in a coma. He was then transferred from Kaiser South Sacramento to a sub-acute facility in Vallejo. The accident put a serious financial strain on his father and family, who had lost their house two years before. As sole supporter, his father still visited him in the hospital every day between two jobs he was working. After the young man had been discharged, I called his dad on Father's Day to see how he was doing. Over the phone, the dad started to cry, "The blanket you gave me....well he opened his eyes last week and on Saturday, said, 'Dad I love you.'" The blanket had never left the side of the young patient, and when transferred, his dad slept with it every night.

These prayer blankets are symbols of love, made in love, donated in love and given in love. They come from Our Saviour in Placerville, St. Martin's in Davis, Shiloh Baptist Church, and three women who met me in Jo Ann's Fabrics, heard me talk about this ministry and volunteered on their own to help. The excellent handiwork of these volunteers is part of Spiritual Care's "Caring Heart" program at Kaiser Permanente, which provides music therapy, prayer blankets, palliative care, an Imam and Rabbi on staff, as well as a Catholic priest three days a week. The prayer blankets also help the Kaiser staff, who know the work we do in caring for patients' spirits. Nursing and Palliative Care recommends the prayer blankets to be placed on patients based on need.

As I tell patients, "I don't believe in miracles, I expect them." God does the miracle but we are conduits of hope, peace, and compassionate listening presence.

 "Caring Heart" currently has 10 trained Chaplaincy Associates, and yet we need more. For questions about this program or to find ways you can help, contact the Rev. Art Lillicrapp at

Michelle Miller of Our Saviour, Placerville  reflects on the prayer blanket project in her congregation:

Our prayer blanket group (two members, Suzanne Kuehn and Janice McDonald pictured left) was started in the summer of 2010 after Fr. Art Lillicrapp talked about his chaplaincy serving victims of gang violence at South Sacramento Kaiser. Terry Berkery and I had made prayer blankets or quilts for other organizations in the past and were eager to share the communal love of Our Saviour's with people in need of comfort. We have had several other ladies join our little group on a regular basis and just delivered our second group of blankets to the hospital. The group has expanded to making quilts in addition to the tied fleece blankets, as well as dolls and stuffed animals for children in the hospital. Before each group of blankets is delivered, we spread them out over the pews in the church and ask everyone to put their hands on a blanket while Fr. Craig blesses them. The power of our community blessing the blankets and the love that we send with each one is a critical piece of this ministry.

All of us in the group have experienced the loss of loved ones, the agony of waiting in the hospital for news, the feeling that we could only pray. We hope that these simple, tangible pieces of love and solidarity give comfort to the patients and their families at a time when they need a pair of loving arms.

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