Imagine thinking you’re in good health — and then having that reality crushed within hours.
That’s exactly what happened to Barbara Tritle. Several years ago, on Good Friday, Tritle, who had never had so much as a sprained ankle, started bleeding. An hour later, she was in surgery. Two hours later, she had lost almost half her blood volume, with a gaping hole in her stomach.
Recovery would be long and slow; she learned firsthand that God brings about good from our worst sufferings.
While recovering, Tritle was amazed by her two rescue dogs, who never left her side.
“I thought to myself, ‘I think this is a sign — they’re here to remind you: God is always with you,’” Tritle said.
From that thought sprang the desire to comfort others in their suffering. The animals that had brought solace to Tritle inspired her to give stuffed animals to people in need of comfort.
“I knew I was going to find a way to console people — every day, we pass someone in need of comfort, whether we’re aware or not,” she said.
In the midst of all this, Tritle, who had been Protestant up to this point, was led to the Catholic Church and entered the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults. Her pastor encouraged her comforting mission, saying, “I want you to run with this — listen to what the Holy Spirit tells you, and don’t let anyone tell you otherwise!”
The mission started small — one little girl in her neighborhood heard that she was in need of stuffed animals and consequently donated 105 brand-new Webkins stuffed animals. Tritle then knitted scarves for each animal with a tag saying, “I was sent by God to let you know you are loved and you are not alone.”
Since then, Mission of Comfort has donated more than 5,000 animals in 20 states and five countries. Tritle now has 12 people on her team bringing this mission to fruition.
She said that there have been countless moments where they were scraping the barrel to get by.
But, inspired by Mother Angelica’s story of starting EWTN with little financial backing, Tritle prayed that God would provide for them — and he answered, with boxes of animals donated anonymously on her doorstep or by strangers handing her money.
“I am a most blessed person,” Tritle said.
One experience especially showed God’s work in her mission.
Shortly after going to confession, she received an email informing her that the priest had suddenly passed away.
A thought came, she recalled: “Comfort that priest’s parish with your mission.”
After delivering 200 stuffed animals to the people of the parish, a parishioner told her, “You have no idea what that meant to us.”
“This mission isn’t about me; it’s the Lord working — my journey converting was in the Lord’s hand. I am finally home in this Church. It’s all connected, like puzzle pieces,” Tritle said.
One of Tritle’s team members, Bonnie Stevenson, has experienced the Holy Spirit’s guidance in this ministry, too.
Through working with the mission, her daughter began considering a religious vocation.
“We need to get quiet and listen to what God’s will is for us and find the joy we all have within us,” Stevenson said. “Giving comfort and joy to others through this mission is the most fulfilling and rewarding thing.”
Added Tritle, “There are many other beautiful missions, but God gave me this blessing and turned it into something beautiful. If you’ve been given a gift from the Holy Spirit, don’t ever ignore it.”
writes from Denver.
Interested in supporting the mission? Email Barbara at [email protected]