Living the Faith: Bob and Ann James

BROCKTON ? What do knitting needles and prayers have in common? Just ask Ann James, parishioner at Our Lady of Lourdes Parish in Brockton.

For the past three years, Ann James has coordinated the parish’s Prayer Shawl program, inviting as many as 30 women into her house every week. The prayer shawls they create are given to the shut-ins of the parish, to the elderly in nursing homes, and to patients at Brockton Hospital.

“We pray as we make the shawls, we pray after we finish making them and they are blessed on the altar before they are distributed,” Ann James said, noting that even if the person who receives the item cannot pray for themselves due to illness or memory loss, “the shawls are just filled with prayers.”

According to Ann, the program has become so popular in the parish that the women have begun to also knit blankets for babies who are baptized in the parish and mittens and gloves for the poor.

“This has brought a lot of the women in the parish together,” she said. “It’s a good ministry that we feel does a lot of good.”

Ann and her husband, Bob, have been parishioners at Our Lady of Lourdes for the past 50 years. High school sweethearts, the couple raised their seven children there, and have been involved in their parish in a host of ways ? teaching religious education when their children were young, helping at parish events and serving on various committees.

To Ann, 74, faith is the “glue” that has always held her life together.

“Sometimes it’s more in the background, and other times it is in the foreground, but it is always there, holding everything in its place,” she said. “I wonder about people that have no faith whatsoever, and how they keep it together.”

Bob added, “In the trials and tribulations we’ve had through the years, I always say ‘It’s in God’s hands’ and then don’t worry too much more about it.”

Bob, 75, a retired graphic designer, described himself as “kind of a handyman” in the parish.

“When Father has a project, such as producing murals for the religious education program, or refinishing the parish hall, he knows he can count on me,” he said.

Bob praised his pastor, Father Francis Cloherty, for his ability to bring the parish together not only for worship, but for community-building events as well. Father Cloherty launched events such as the Blues Breakfast ? an annual event every Halloween where members of the adult choir serve breakfast to parishioners as live music is being played ?to foster a sense of community within the parish.

“When Father Cloherty first came, he wanted to get people involved in the parish socially,” explained Bob, adding that Father always encourages parishioners to contribute their ideas on how to build the community.

As a result, he continued, many parishioners have become quite active in the parish.

“It’s wonderful to see how everyone wants to get involved,” Ann added. “It helps strengthen my faith.”