Homemade items help NCYC-bound youths ‘feel the love’


By Lindsay Steele
The Catholic Messenger

It’s a National Catholic Youth Conference tradition for parish groups to bring items to trade. Over the years, youths from all over the country have gotten to know each other while trading funky hats, T-shirts, novelty jewelry and other items.

Becki Kenton
Women from the prayer shawl ministry at St. Joseph Parish in DeWitt have been busy making sheep hats for the parish youths who are attending the National Catholic Youth Conference in Indianapolis, Ind., later this month. They are, front row, Phyllis Goodall, Bev Kuehn and Alicia Burken. Standing are Nancy Mohr and Verna Turnis.

This year, youths from at least two parishes in the Diocese of Davenport will come bearing items made with a little love. Knitters and crocheters in DeWitt and Oskaloosa crafted cozy items for parish youths to take to Indianapolis later this month for the four-day conference.
Where there’s a “wool,” there’s a way

DeWitt youths and chaperones will wear fluffy white crocheted caps with googly-eyed sheep faces attached. Each sheep wears a miniature bell, with NCYC’s theme, “Called” inscribed on one side, and NCYC 2017 on the other.


A few months ago, NCYC-bound youths from St. Joseph-DeWitt expressed an interest in wearing sheep hats. Youth Minister Pat Sheil recalled, “They were researching Scriptures with the topic of being called, the theme of NCYC. Someone mentioned the passage about how the sheep know the Master’s voice…  and then they referenced Jeremiah 33:3: ‘Call to me and I will answer you.’”

The youths and chaperones soon realized that ready-made sheep hats were out of their price range. But Alicia Burken, a longtime NCYC chaperone and a member of the parish’s prayer shawl ministry, had an idea. “I thought we could just crochet a stocking cap and add the face and legs.  So I bought some fuzzy white yarn and made the original hat and took it to Pat, who got a hoot out of it,” Burken said.

The prayer shawl group was eager to help. “That’s a good thing because I don’t think I would have been able to get all 50 hats done myself,” Burken said. “As it is, I think they crocheted about 45 of them.  Once they crocheted them, I took them and added the faces, bells and legs.”
As they worked on the hats, the women prayed for the youths and chaperones who would be wearing them at NCYC. Sheil said of the prayer shawl group, “I am so grateful for the help and prayers of these parishioners as we prepare the pilgrimage to NCYC!”

Sharing love with every stitch

Two years ago, women from St. Mary Parish in Oskaloosa made fox hats for NCYC-bound youths after seeing a notice in the bulletin asking if anyone was interested in making the hats. Knitters and crocheters took up the challenge of making 20-or-so hats in short time for the conference. “We were working like crazy trying to get the fox hats done,” parishioner Linda Snakenberg recalled with a laugh.

The hats were a hit, and for the 2017 conference, the youths once again wanted to wear handmade items. They requested golden yellow scarves; trade items, initially, serve the purpose of helping parish group members find each other in the 70,000-capacity Lucas Oil Stadium. “You want something you can pick kids out of the crowd with,” Snakenberg said.

The women started work on the scarves early in the year, and some of their friends from other churches in town heard about the project and wanted to help. It became an interfaith effort.

Snakenberg said the women enjoy knitting and crocheting items for the youths. “It’s fun to do for them, to give them something to share. You think about all the fun they’re going to have. You pray that the scarves will warm them, keep them safe and let them feel the love.”

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