From left, Linda DiCaprio, Barbara Smith, Jeanne McKinnen, Anne Morck (behind McKinnen), Margaret Pauling, Monsy Arce and Nereida Arce, among the scores of other women who participate in Mary’s Ladies of the Knots ministry every month.
From left, Linda DiCaprio, Barbara Smith, Jeanne McKinnen, Anne Morck (behind McKinnen), Margaret Pauling, Monsy Arce and Nereida Arce, among the scores of other women who participate in Mary’s Ladies of the Knots ministry every month.
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The Mary’s Ladies of the Knots ministry ties knots not only to create fleece blankets, but to help others untie knots of their own. 

The ministry program, based on the Marian devotion of Mary Undoer of Knots, which is also a 300-year-old Baroque painting of the same name, has taken flight at St. Edward the Confessor Church in Clifton Park. It was the brainchild of two friends: Linda DiCaprio and Joanne DeNovio.

DiCaprio was creating fleece blankets for children in wheelchairs at Albany Medical Center when she invited DeNovio to join. She became instantly hooked.

DeNovio then had the idea of starting a fleece-blanket ministry at St. Edward.

“Feeling the generosity, that’s how the idea took bloom. So I got Linda (DiCaprio), Joyce (Papa), and Ceal (McClain) together, asked if they would be willing to help and the rest is history,” DeNovio said.

The group grew rapidly from word of mouth. Starting in September with 17 women, they are now 50 members strong with new faces showing every meeting.

The blankets, which are comprised of two fleece blankets that have knots all around the outside, are made with the prayerful devotion to Mary Undoer of Knots. In the baroque painting, Mary is depicted untying the knots of a white wedding ribbon, dove’s ­encircling her head and a white dove representing the Holy Spirit floating above. The painting depicts that the power of prayer to Mary ultimately results in her untying the knots, or problems. 

While the painting is symbolic, referring to Mary as an Undoer of Knots goes back to St. Irenaeus in the second century, according to catholicstraightanswers.com. St. Irenaeus said: “The knot of Eve’s disobedience was untied by the obedience of Mary; what the virgin Eve bound by her unbelief, the Virgin Mary loosened by her faith.”

Tying knots to make vibrant blankets is only one part of the group’s process; they also include prayer in their ministry. Each time a blanket is completed a bell is rung, or as was the case recently, DiCaprio gently taps on a champagne flute with a butter knife, prompting the group to stop and pray the Hail Mary over the blanket. 

Before each meeting, the group also meditates on a prayer for 20 minutes, while each passes a ribbon around the table, tying a knot representative of a struggle in their life they would like Mary to resolve. Lastly, all the ribbons are put in a basket and the group prays the Pope Francis prayer to Mary Undoer of Knots over them. 

“The point is we’re not just making quilts. We’re building a devotional community to Mary” DeNovio said.

DiCaprio added: “We’re supporting each other in all of our knots in life.” 

While each blanket gives parishioners of Mary’s Ladies of the Knots ministry a sense of community, the creation is significant for the recipients: they provide comfort to people facing “knots” or obstacles in their lives. The knots also remind people to turn to the Blessed Mother Mary for grace to guide them through their hardships, DeNovio said.

What started off as a goal of creating 50 quilts to be donated to teens at St. Anne’s Institute, soon included 16 additional blankets needed at the Ballston Lake Battered Woman Shelter during the November meeting. By the end of the group’s December meeting, they completed 76 blankets. The group has since donated to Joan Nicole Prince Home and Albany Medical Center Pediatrics.

“We counted twice because we thought it was so weird. We got exactly what we needed. Everybody was like, overwhelmed” DeNovio said, “Our first donation was to St. Anne’s, who was Mary’s mother. To me it’s no coincidence that we had a request for 76, and we got 76.” 

DeNovio advises parishes looking to start a ministry to pray to Mary for wisdom and direction and to set realistic goals. 

“And that whatever you do is the gift to the community and your devotion to Mary. So it doesn’t matter how small,” DiCaprio said.

To join no skill is needed, as long as you can tie a knot. Parishioners are encouraged to bring fleece fabric (two pieces measuring 54 inches in length)  or a monetary donation ($12 to $20) to help supply materials. The group meets the first Monday of every month at St. Edward the Confessor of Clifton Park.