On a mission to pray for priests

Through Seven Sisters Apostolate, Guilette invites others to lift up pastors in prayer

BRUSSELS — Joanne Guilette is a firm believer in the power of adoration before the Blessed Sacrament. That’s why, although she already does other holy hours each week, she eagerly agreed to add another hour, this one for her parish priest as part of the Seven Sisters Apostolate.

The Seven Sisters Apostolate began around 2011 by a woman from St. Paul, Minn., under the guidance of her own priest, and is currently awaiting canonical status. There are now roughly 600 groups throughout the United States and elsewhere, and the apostolate has been featured on EWTN, the Catholic television network.

Your Catholic Neighbor: Joanne Guilette (Monica Sawyn | For The Compass)

The apostolate began, in part, as a response to the sexual abuse crisis in the church. It was a means of supporting all priests who can sometimes feel alone in their ministries. The group’s website describes the apostolate this way: “A call to strengthen the church by ensuring that a holy hour is prayed each day of the week for the sole intention of a specific priest or bishop…”

Guilette lived in Sturgeon Bay in 2016 when she began devoting one hour to praying for her pastor at Corpus Christi Parish. When she moved to Brussels and became a member of St. Francis and St. Mary Parish, she decided to start a Seven Sisters group there. They first came together in April 2018. As the coordinator, Guilette is called the “anchoress.”

The women commit to this ministry for a year at a time which usually runs June to June. It’s a personal way for them to address the needs of the church, since it’s done for their own pastor.

Guilette said she began by explaining the apostolate to her pastor, Fr. Edward Looney. She gave him the manual the women use and assured him there was nothing he had to do except know he was being prayed for daily. She then prayed about which women in the parish to ask and started with those she knew. Since then, she has compiled a “mental list” of who to ask.

Guilette’s day for her Seven Sisters hour is Sunday, so she arrives at St. Francis and St. Mary an hour before Mass to pray for Fr. Looney. She then offers her Mass for him, too. She lectors at the National Shrine of Our Lady of Good Help in Champion three days a week, so she tries to do a holy hour for other intentions before those Masses, too.

“I call myself a true ‘roamin’ Catholic,’” she said.

Before Mass on Wednesdays in Brussels, Guilette offers her holy hour for all priests, something she did even before becoming a Seven Sister. She loves the church when it’s quiet and she’s alone with Jesus, but said she wishes more people could come to appreciate the value of these holy hours.

“If people only understood the power of adoration (before the Blessed Sacrament), the grace that Jesus gives us,” she said. “It can change the whole world. It’s hard to describe to others, but when they do it, they ‘get it.’ It’s what I tell my CCD students: Jesus speaks to you in the silence.”

To make it easy for the women she recruited, Guilette provided prayers she used at Corpus Christi. They include rosary meditations for priests, Stations of the Cross with meditations for priests and as individual prayers.

When the group started, Guilette met with them for breakfast, explained the one-year commitment, and led them in a commitment prayer. In May 2019, they will let her know whether they want to renew for another year. If not, she will find replacements.

Guilette said that the women have all commented to her that they have become more prayerful since becoming part of the apostolate.

“One said she prays the rosary more often, another finds herself praying in general more often — it warms my heart,” she said. “They absolutely see the benefit in it. For sure they feel it in themselves, but they understand that all these prayers are going to Fr. Edward.”

Although Joanne has spent time in prayer and adoration throughout her whole life, adding this Seven Sister hour has affected her life, too.

“We always draw benefits from prayer,” she said. “If I really think about it closely, the biggest benefit from this is a stronger sense of God’s love for me. Sometimes it’s so overpowering I just start crying. His love is so great, we can’t contain it within ourselves.”

For people who don’t feel God’s love, who question it and sometimes his very existence, she said has this advice: “If you don’t deep down feel God’s love for you, do adoration.”

Others who wish to start a Seven Sisters group in their own parish can find all the information they need, plus a registration form for the anchoress, at www.sevensistersapostolate.org.


Your Catholic Neighbor

Name: Joanne Guilette

Parish: St. Francis and St. Mary, Brussels

Age: 57

Favorite saint: St. Pio of Pietrelcina

Words to live by: “Call to me and I will answer you and tell you great, unsearchable things.” Jer. 33:3