by PETER GRACE
AUCKLAND — Some might say Fr Bernie Thomas, OFM, should
have been a sheep farmer, because he likes woolly jumpers — at least
he’s knitted quite a few.
The Franciscan priest told NZ Catholic that he started knitting
when he was 19. He needed a new jumper, he said, and his mum said,
“Why don’t you just knit your own”?

Fr Bernie, who is now 53, is a chaplain with Auckland Catholic
Tertiary Chaplaincy.
These days he knits quite a few hand warmers, which he sells for
$15 each to generate extra funds for the chaplaincy. And he is happy
to do them in requested colours, he said.
“I am knitting myself a sleeveless vest at the moment,” he said.
He has given away a number of the jumpers he has knitted, and has
about four that he still wears.
He knits because he likes being active. “I quite like, just when I am sitting watching TV, having something to do,” he said.
Before he got into knitting the hand warmers, Fr Bernie said, he
knitted almost 100 babies’ beanies for Middlemore Hospital, to be
added to newborn baby packages given out to mothers of newborns.
He even teaches knitting to prisoners.
“Last year also I led a 10-week knitting course for about 10 inmates
at Springhill Prison. In fact, the day the riot broke out there last
year I was there teaching knitting.
“One cheeky student texted me later that day wondering if I had
started the riot with the knitting needles and my knitting students!”
He taught the inmates how to make babies’ beanies for Middlemore
Hospital, he said.
Fr Bernie said the money he makes from selling hand warmers goes
to the tertiary chaplaincy for extras.
“Last year we bought an expresso machine … and this year it will
be bean bag cushions.
“It’s something nice to do, mainly for the students, and dress up
the lounge a bit more.

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