A handcrafted prayer medal is bringing comfort and peace to local Catholic parishioners.
The Rev. Michael Denk of St. Joesph Parish created the Holy Family Prayer Medal in 2008 and is working on his next masterpiece called “The Prodigal Father.”
Prayer medals can be carried easily in a pocket, serving as a reminder that God is always there and listening, Denk said.
The idea of sculpting such pieces came to Denk when he was thinking of the perfect Christmas gifts for his staff.
“Someone gave me a prayer medal to hold onto before and I just loved it,” he said. “It got me through a lot of tough times. Whenever I held that thing it reminded me of that person and that I’m always loved by them and by God.”
Denk wanted his staff to have similar gift and to know he’s always there for them.
A jeweler at the parish helped Denk learn how to sculpt the medal out of wax and make copies. “It got to be tedious,” Denk said. “I actually lit my desk on fire in the process.”
However the carving became a meditation for the father.
The Holy Family was his first creation because it holds a special place in his heart. “I loved as a kid always setting up the nativity,” he said. “That was always my thing to do at Christmas.”
Denk has watched the prayer medals take off over the years and be passed on to others in need. Each piece is blessed by Denk.
When the first pieces were created, he made extras to give to people who were struggling to pray in nursing homes and hospitals. “Even last week I gave it to someone in hospice and they died with it in their hands,” he said. “They just loved holding it.”
The words “God is with us” are written on the back of each medal. They were included to remind the faithful that God is always there, even if they can’t sense his presence.
Linda Rourke is among those who have benefited from the prayer medals. She told the News-Times hers has helped her feel God’s love and peace. “This medal has impacted my life with much comfort and joy,” she said.
“I have one and have given several as gifts,” Rourke said. “I know there are times in life when we just need something sacramental to hold. That is why I have given these to people close to me.”
Denk said he gave a prayer medal to a young boy who was struggling because his grandfather was dying and the boy gave the medal to his grandfather.
“I think after people go through a difficult time they want to pass it along to other people,” Denk said.
The medals are available year-round but Denk and Rourke believe they would make a great Christmas gifts.
They are not for sale. But anyone interested is encouraged to donate $30 or more to the non-profit Catholic ministry, The Prodigal Father Productions or call 440-973-6447.
The pieces are available for pick up at the church.
Valerie Urbanik can be reached at 440-775-1611 or on Twitter @ValUrbanik.
Photos by Valerie Urbanik | Amherst News-Times
The Rev. Michael Denk holds his handcrafted Holy Family Prayer Medal, which he gives to people in need.