On Friday, April 6, a collision on a northeast Saskatchewan highway between a semi-trailer and the bus carrying the Humboldt Broncos junior hockey team to a playoff game ended 15 lives, hospitalized 14 others and left an arena full of hockey fans waiting for a puck drop that never came.
Expressions of mourning and solidarity have come from across the country and the world. Hundreds gathered for a vigil in Humboldt, Sask., Sunday night, a GoFundMe page has raised almost $7.5 million for the players and their families, and leaders such as Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, Queen Elizabeth, and Pope Francis have offered their condolences.
One hundred fifty kilometres away in Prince Albert, Sask., Susan Bain felt the call to do something.
Bain is the co-ordinator of the prayer shawl ministry at St. David’s Anglican Church in Prince Albert, in the diocese of Saskatchewan.
She is also on the chancel guild. “On Sunday, after we were taking everything down,” the flowers that were taken from the sanctuary—usually given to someone in need in the parish—were offered to a parishioner, Mary Widger, who has a sister-in-law from Humboldt. Bain had the idea to give her prayer shawls to send to Humboldt.
Bain gave her 20 prayer shawls, all that they had on hand at the time. “I just felt we had to do something,” she says.
She hopes the shawls will bring some comfort to those grieving the tragedy, that they will feel “enveloped” by the shawl. “It’s like getting a warm hug, I think, from God. Getting some kind of comfort.”
The shawls were sent to Humboldt through connections with Widger’s sister-in-law and will be distributed to mourners through a church in the town.
“We are trusting that those who receive them will be comforted and blessed,” said Widger in an email.
Responding to the tragedy, Archbishop Fred Hiltz, primate of the Anglican Church of Canada, and the Rev. Susan C. Johnson, National Bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada (ELCIC), have issued a joint statement, saying, “in a time like this we are reminded of the simplicity yet full measure of our faith in God and our care for one another.”
The statement remembered in prayer those who died, their families, those who were injured but survived the crash, those conducting services of remembrance, the medical teams and first responders who cared for the victims, and “the very wide community” of the Humboldt Broncos.
“As families grieve, a community grieves with them. As a community grieves, a nation grieves with them,” the statement said.
In Humboldt, local Anglicans took part in the inter-faith service held at the Elgar Petersen Arena and Uniplex. The Rev. Matteo Carboni, of St. Andrew’s Anglican Church, led the service, which was also attended by Trudeau, Saskatchewan Premier Scott Moe and other officials.
Ten players, two coaches, a statistician, a radio announcer and the driver of the bus were killed in the collision.
Bain says the tragedy touched her heart because between 1976 and 1986, her family billeted hockey players for the Prince Albert Raiders, taking in some 38 players over those 10 years. She still refers to the first player who stayed with her family, who she says is now 62 years old, as her “boy.” Some of the players who stayed in her home keep in touch; one is coming to visit this summer.
“It’s not until later on in your life that you’re so blessed with these boys calling you and coming to visit, calling you on your birthday or Christmas,” says Bain. “My attachment…was so strong that when I heard [about the crash] on Friday night, I was just bawling. You don’t know what to do; it’s just so horrendous.”
Bain says her prayer shawl group may send more shawls if they are needed. The group of eight knitters and crocheters generally make about 40 prayer shawls a year, she says.
Ministry with prayer shawls was started in 1997 by American seminary students Vicky Galo and Janet Bristow. The shawls are created with prayerful intention and blessed before being given to someone in need.