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Giving new life to plastic shopping bags

Retired Sisters of Providence in the Lourdes Hall Assisted Living Residence of Providence Health Care are transforming plastic grocery and shopping bags into warm sleeping mats. Homeless residents of the Terre Haute area can use these to stretch out and sleep on at night.

Sister Grace Marie Meehan shows off the plastic yarn (plarn) the sisters have cut and tied.

Currently involved in this ministry are Sisters of Providence Betty Koressel, Marilyn Trobaugh, Grace Marie Meehan, Mary Lou Ruck, Maria Smith, Clelia Cecchetti, as well as Lourdes Hall resident Teresa Morris.

The group became involved in this ministry after a presentation by Providence Associate Karen Sagraves, who is involved with the bag ministry at Central Christian Church in Terre Haute, Indiana.

Karen met with some of the retired sisters at Saint Mary-of-the-Woods and described how members of her church had begun the ministry to bring some “warmth and love to many of our neighbors who were homeless.”

Here is how it works. People donate “gently used” plastic bags they get on shopping trips. A small group meets regularly when they have some time to give. They flatten out the donated bags. Then a member of the team cuts each bag into strips which are then tied together and sent to be be crocheted together by others. Completed mats are then given to members of Central Christian Church who pass them on to members of the Salvation Army who place them on benches where homeless people sleep.

(Left to right) Sisters Mary Lou Ruck, Clelia Cecchetti, Betty Koressel, Marilyn Trobaugh and Lourdes Hall resident Teresa
Morris work on turning used plastic shopping bags into sleeping mats for people who are homeless.

“We adopted this ministry as our commitment to a justice project this year as part of our annual ‘play, pray and plan’ process,” Sister Grace Marie said. “It is an activity in which each one of us can participate and we enjoy doing this because we know how much those who receive the mats benefit from our work.”

Originally published in the summer 2023 issue of HOPE magazine.

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Sister Cathy Campbell

Sister Cathy Campbell

Sister Cathy Campbell, SP, is a freelance writer and editor. She holds a Doctor of Ministry degree in Spirituality from Catholic Theological Union/Chicago. Sister Cathy also ministers as a retreat facilitator for the Providence Spirituality and Conference Center with special interests in scripture and the mystics.

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