Seven Sisters apostolate offers prayers for priests

| Susan Klemond for The Catholic Spirit | December 5, 2013 | 0 Comments
Each member of a Seven Sisters group prays a Holy Hour on a different day each week. Pictured above are members of the original seven parishes that started the apostolate in 2011: Jean Koslowski, St. John the Baptist, New Brighton; Terry Gaffney, St. Michael, Stillwater; Cathy Moore, St. Joseph, West St. Paul; Barb York, St. Pius X, White Bear Lake; Nancy Roberts, All Saints, Lakeville and Kathy Chlan, St. Nicholas, New Market. Dianne Towalski / The Catholic Spirit

Each member of a Seven Sisters group prays a Holy Hour on a different day each week. Pictured above are members of the original seven parishes that started the apostolate in 2011: Jean Koslowski, St. John the Baptist, New Brighton; Terry Gaffney, St. Michael, Stillwater; Cathy Moore, St. Joseph, West St. Paul; Barb York, St. Pius X, White Bear Lake; Janette Howe, Cathedral of St. Paul, St. Paul; Nancy Roberts, All Saints, Lakeville and Kathy Chlan, St. Nicholas, New Market. Dianne Towalski / The Catholic Spirit

Almost three years ago Janette Howe felt a simple prompting to pray more for her pastor, Father Joseph Johnson, then-rector of the Cathedral of St. Paul. By the summer of 2010, she was offering a weekly Holy Hour before the Blessed Sacrament for him.

The prompting didn’t end there. Howe was inspired to form an apostolate called the Seven Sisters in which hundreds of women in the Twin Cities and around the country now pray a Holy Hour on a particular day of the week exclusively for their pastor, priest or bishop.

The prayer adds up to one dedicated Holy Hour offered every day of the year for each of about 100 clergy members — from Archbishop John Nienstedt to newly ordained priests.

With the central focus on the Eucharist, which Father Johnson called the heart of priestly life, each Seven Sisters group of seven women pray on different days of the week for their priest’s intentions and also that he have a deepening devotion to the Blessed Mother.

This prayer, which benefits not just priests, but parishes, is inspiring as the local Church goes through a difficult period, said Father Johnson, Seven Sisters adviser and now pastor at Holy Family in St. Louis Park.

“We have only to look at current events to see that our Church very much needs a renewal in the life of the priests,” he said. “That’s something that, of course, we priests have to take the lead in ourselves. But it’s also something that the faithful can join in prayer for their priests, and a beautiful way of contributing to the rebuilding of the archdiocese at a very sad time in our history.”

Howe started the apostolate in 2011 in seven local parishes. Now more than 80 groups of Seven Sisters pray in the archdiocese. Some parishes have as many as four groups — not only for the pastor, but also for associates, retired priests and chaplains.

Along with the group for Arch­bishop Nienstedt, there is one for Bishop Lee Piché, and others are forming for Bishop-elect Andrew Cozzens and St. Cloud Bishop Donald Kettler. Howe added that the apostolate also is growing throughout the country. “It’s just been exponential.”

The apostolate consists of women, though men can serve as substitutes. Each core group of adorers is limited to seven, but anyone can join in offering a Holy Hour for their pastor or priest, Howe said.

Prayer supporting a priest in his ministry also benefits the laity, Father Johnson said.

Graces flow as the women pray, said Terri Gaffney, who has prayed for her pastor, Father Michael Mil­ler of St. Michael and St. Mary in Stillwater, since the apostolate began. “The Seven Sisters apostolate unites a core group of women, who in solidarity in prayer for pastors and associate pastors uniquely draw upon the graces, which flow from the very heart of the Blessed Sacrament itself to transform not only the pastor and associate but, through our priests, to transform the parishioners as well.”

A Seven Sisters group prayed for Father Joe Bambenek when he became pastor of St. Pius X in White Bear Lake this July. “I was deeply touched and also deeply humbled,” he said. “It’s a wonderful, amazing thing.”

Father Bambenek said the prayer has helped sustain him in learning his new position. “I guess you just trust that through people’s faithfulness God works. . . . It’s certainly encouraging to a person to know that people are praying for them.”

During her hour, Howe considers what is happening in the parish and the senses she receives in prayer about the physical, emotional, social and spiritual needs of her pastor, now current Cathedral rector Father John Ubel. She doesn’t consult with him because the apostolate is designed for quiet service. “Without disturbing the priest in contacting him, there’s much that you can pray about,” she said.

Above all, the sisters seek Mary’s intercession for their priests, Howe said. “There’s a beautiful tie-in of relying on the Holy Spirit,” she said. “This is the spouse of Mary. This prayer for the priest to deepen his relationship with Mary is going to happen as each woman relies on the Holy Spirit.”

Sometimes apostolate members face distractions, especially the needs of family and friends, Gaffney said. “Sometimes it is difficult. Your mind wanders to another thing or person,” she said, adding that she’s received assurance that God takes care of her other intentions so she can focus on her pastor.

Praying as a Seven Sister for a priest often helps women see the big picture at their parish, Gaffney said. “Not that we ignore [an issue], but we look at it in a different way, look at it a little more, ‘I wonder how God is working here, how we can better pray.’”

Seven Sisters uniquely supports priests through consistent prayer before the Blessed Sacrament, she said.

“Our prayer as Seven Sisters is to assist in holding up the arms of the priest as he carries out his vocation in the life of a parish, always recollecting the phrases: ‘To Jesus through Mary’ and ‘Do whatever he tells you.’”

Read more about the Seven Sisters apostolate on its website.

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Category: Focus on Faith