Donna-Marie Cooper O'Boyle's new ministry brings love and graces to brothers and sisters on the street
Any service to the poor can change lives, but Donna-Marie Cooper O’Boyle’s new ministry to the homeless has an extra special touch. She calls it her “holy” scarves ministry—or “Warming the Homeless with LOVE, Scarves and Sacramentals.”
The inspiration came after an encounter with a homeless man outside a restaurant in Northampton, Massachusetts, this past August. O’Boyle—a Catholic speaker, catechist, blogger, TV host and author of twenty books—couldn’t stop thinking about her conversation with “Andrew” after she went home, or shake the deep sense that it was truly Jesus in him that she was to serve.
“I gave Andrew two blessed medals … and he drew them to his heart and then put them safely in his pocket,” recalls O’Boyle. “I chatted with him for a bit and told him that God loves him and that I would pray for him. He told me that he was so touched that he was crying. Then he very gently picked up my hand, drew it to his lips and kissed it. It felt like a kiss from Jesus.”
Andrew also told O’Boyle that he had been living on the streets for more than ten years and he was growing concerned because winter was coming. O’Boyle blogged about her meeting with Andrew, asking for prayers for him and all the homeless, and soon afterward, the scarves ministry was born.
O’Boyle says she decided on scarves because they help keep people warm, but she also thought they were a perfect piece of clothing on which to attach blessed medals for protection.
Sacramentals have played a big role in O’Boyle’s life—ever since she was given a Miraculous Medal by Mother Theresa, who she went on to have a friendship and correspondence with for 10 years. O’Boyle has now given out tens of thousands of blessed medals to people all around the world while traveling, attending conferences, and along with book orders she sends out.
“I’ve given medals to delivery men, to people at airports and on airplanes and in public office, to a seminarian standing guard at St. John Paul II’s tomb, and to a young man serving at a gelato bar in Rome. There are all kinds of reasons I have given them; the inspiration just comes. I keep a supply in my purse and pocket. Many times I am overwhelmed at God’s amazing graces flowing through this sacramental from our Church. I have seen amazing transformations happen before my eyes in the exchange.”
O’Boyle eventually collected her many Miraculous Medal stories together in a book called The Miraculous Medal: Stories, Prayers and Devotions and shares more of her encounters in her latest book, The Kiss of Jesus, her memoir.
Attaching Miraculous Medals to the scarves for the homeless was a no-brainer for O’Boyle, and the St. Benedict medal was also very important for her to include.
“The St. Benedict medal has a full exorcism blessing on it—it’s known for it’s protection against evil,” says O’Boyle. “I believe that both medals will be beneficial to all who wear them. If the homeless can have something that keeps them warm and also can bring inspiration, graces and protection, then I am happy!”
So far there’s been a terrific response to O’Boyle’s invitation to others to participate. One woman sent her 27 scarves for men and women that she crocheted and knitted herself. Another plans to start the ministry in her own local area in Missouri. A Benedictine nun who heard about the ministry will be crocheting and sending scarves, some of them in “Mother Teresa colors” (white and blue like her sari).
O’Boyle sews the blessed medals on the scarves she receives (she accepts hats and gloves too) before heading out the door with them, which she has begun to do. She just brought the first batch to a Missionaries of Charity convent in Bridgeport, CT, and as the weather cools, she’ll be traveling to other cities to give out the “holy” scarves to the homeless she encounters.
You can find out more about Donna-Marie Cooper O’Boyle’s new ministry at her website.
Zoe Romanowsky is lifestyle editor and video content curator for Aleteia