A member of the Sisters of St. Francis of Philadelphia since 1960, Sister Margaret Xavier Romans, OSF, has ministered to God’s people in many varied capacities, but perhaps none has touched the lives of others so personally and profoundly as her very own pillow ministry.A native of Maryland, Sister Margaret is a teacher at the Catholic High School of Baltimore for Girls, a sponsored ministry of her community. When not working in the school, she designs and creates her own prayer pillows for individuals—both known and unknown to her—who are ill or dealing with difficult situations of one sort or another.
“This ministry is the outgrowth of just being aware of the needs of others and using something so simple as a pillow to let the other person know that they are not alone and that they are held in prayer in a special way,” she explains.
An avid seamstress who first used her needle and thread to make habits for the sisters and curtains for the convent, Sister Margaret has been using her talents to turn out prayer pillows since 2006. She first creates a pillow cover in the person’s choice of color or colors.
She then attaches a rectangle of cloth onto which she cross-stitches the person’s name, as well as its meaning. The final touch is a personal card from Sister Margaret, assuring the recipient that she will be walking with them daily in prayer.
Despite creating more than 500 prayer pillows to date, Sister Margaret is able to recall each in detail. Some of her most memorable pillows are the ones made for the sisters at her community’s retirement home, who love to show off their special pillow atop their bed.
One time, a unique pillow request was fulfilled for a student’s father, a US Army sergeant, who was being deployed to Afghanistan. Sister Margaret came up with a special 3-by-5-inch pillow, which the serviceman was able to tuck into the pocket of his uniform and carry with him throughout his military tour.
Sister Margaret later received a touching expression of gratitude from the US Army. Instead of the usual thank-you card, an American flag and a certificate, both encased in glass, arrived at her convent, thanking her for supporting Operation Enduring Freedom.
The certificate indicated that the flag had flown over the American base in Afghanistan in her honor.
Although Sister Margaret creates every pillow herself, she believes her work is a ministry over which she really has no control. “I consider myself just the ‘middle nun,’ waiting for either the inspiration of the Holy Spirit or an invite from another to create the next pillow. All are opportunities for much joy.”
There is a natural connection between her ministry and the Franciscan charism. “Saint Francis spent his life bringing peace and joy to others. My pillows do the same in so many ways. They bring comfort and an assurance of prayer. They also remind the folks of just how special they are,” says the Franciscan sister.
“Having a ministry that reaches so many and which has brought so much joy and consolation is a dream come true. I hope and pray that others will come up with their own version of a way to reach out to those in need.”
—Rita E. Piro
Stories from Our Readers: Saint Anthony's Second Chance
Two years ago, I lost a cross that my husband gave me 34 years ago. I immediately started to pray to Saint Anthony, but I didn’t find my cross. I figured that someone must have found mine and kept it, making it impossible for Saint Anthony to help me find it; so he did the next best thing and helped us find a replacement.
Later, my husband went online to find me a new one and to our surprise and delight, he found the exact same cross for sale.
Now fast-forward to today and again I can’t find my cross.
I start praying to Saint Anthony as I search the house. I have to stop searching to keep an appointment. Upon returning home, I again say a prayer and instantly hear a small voice say, “It’s in your pocketbook.”
This time, Saint Anthony did help me find my lost cross. Thank you, Saint Anthony!
—Barbara McCormack, Cortlandt Manor, New York
Saint Francis of Assisi: Respecting Individuals
If the medieval world had had a reality show entitled Extreme Penances, Francis of Assisi might have won it. But he was too sensible to expect his followers to match him penance for penance.
When a friar cried out one night, "I’m dying of hunger,” Francis ordered the other friars to get up and join him in eating something so that the friar would not be embarrassed (2 Celano, First Book, Chapter XV).
Francis told them that a person’s service to God must always take account of one’s strength.
–Pat McCloskey, OFM