GARDEN CITY—Five years ago, Donna Lewis was diagnosed with cancer and lost all her hair from chemotherapy treatments. Moved by her plight, Lewis’ sister gave her a special bracelet that tells the story of Christ and His Apostles through colored beads and symbols.
Lewis didn’t realize at the time that the gift would grow into an activity of healing and evangelization, and eventually raise approximately $43,000 for her church, St. Michael.
Handmade by members of Sedona Methodist Church in Arizona, the bracelet drew the attention of fellow parishioners, friends and acquaintances — so much so that she ordered a batch and began selling them.
The bracelets became a way of sharing her faith with others, such as the technicians who helped with her treatments, and the people she met while traveling with her husband Mark.
Eventually, the bracelet makers at Sedona Methodist encouraged Lewis to make her own bands to sell. She did, and earned enough money to start her own apostolate, which is a labor done in the name of Christ. She gathered a group of volunteers from St. Michael, and Father Ray Carlo, former pastor, let her sell them in the parish gift shop. Lewis insisted that all profits go toward parish debt.
She has made bracelets for people with a specific need, and given away others, Lewis said. Mark, a member of the Knights of Columbus at St. Michael, helps with distribution.
Affectionately referred to as “the bag lady” because she carries her stock in a plastic bag, Lewis said she finds that sharing Jesus’ story bracelets has become a form of evangelization.
Recently, a man overheard her story while standing in line at a grocery store. He bought a bracelet for his wife, who was undergoing treatment for scleroderma, and asked Lewis to come to the car where his wife was waiting and speak to her. The lady acknowledged that she was very depressed and Lewis prayed with her, explaining what each bead in the bracelet represented.
In another instance, a friend recently lost his wife to pancreatic cancer, and she made him a bracelet with the pancreatic cancer ribbon attached.
Lewis said she is determined to wear her own bracelet for the rest of her life. She vividly recalls the day her sister gave it to her, and is embarrassed to admit she almost threw it away recently because it seemed too large for her wrist. But then the replacement bracelet she made popped, and all the beads scattered across the kitchen floor. It occurred to her that she was meant to wear the original from then on. She had to sift through the trash twice to find the 11 original blue and white beads representing the Apostles. Back at the table, she found the 12th bead and added it to represent Matthias, who joined the Apostles to replace Judas.
“I know the Apostles have to be on my wrist until I die,” Lewis said smiling.
As a priest from Wisconsin, where Lewis’ sister lives, told her: “God has given you a true apostolate.”
Stacy Cretzmeyer | Special to The Catholic Miscellany
For more information about Jesus’ story bracelets, contact Donna Lewis at firstname.lastname@example.org.