Because members of St. John the Evangelist Parish, Antigo, believe prayer is the foundation of everything they do, they created a stewardship program of prayer and service that includes every parishioner.
Lynn Henricks, parish stewardship coordinator, said more than 400 of the forms listing prayer and service opportunities, distributed at the fall stewardship fair, were returned.
Last year's fair was the fourth, said Henricks, and more people signed up as volunteers than at the previous three fairs.
"It's neat to see who signs up for what," she said. "It's tapping into the talent of different people."
Fr. Charles Hoffman, pastor, said stewardship has given St. John "a new thrust ... a new energy ... a new focus and has brought more people into being active.
"If I was going to start a parish or if I wanted to revitalize a parish, I would start with stewardship because everyone is involved, everyone has value, everyone has gifts and is trying to draw those gifts out for their own benefit but also for the benefit of the community.... [When] people see that they had been gifted and that they're needed and wanted, they keep stepping forward again and again and again."
Henricks said the prayer and 90-plus service opportunities are ways new parishioners can immediately get involved. Even the homebound can participate through prayer, which the parish stresses during Lent, she said.
"We put tremendous emphasis on the prayer part and that was the spring board, the foundation, a launching pad for everything else," Fr. Hoffman said. "It's the source of strength that has opened up the avenues for the service part.... We always ask them to pray over what they're going to do before they commit themselves."
"Without prayer as our foundation, we are floundering," Henricks said.
This is the sixth year St. John has emphasized prayer and the second it has distributed prayer commitment cards with the Lenten materials sent to parishioners.
"Pray always and forever" is the parish Lenten theme, Henricks said. The prayer options on the commitment cards include:
Families making lists of people they will pray for;
Attending daily Mass or Stations of the Cross;
Attending the Tuesday evening Lenten speaker series;
Reading every day from the Little Black Book.
To inspire people to do that reading, the Sunday bulletin includes three questions that can only be answered by the coming week's readings in that book, Henricks said.
Other prayer opportunities include:
The children answering questions about their prayer practices on their weekend stewardship envelopes. Henricks said Fr. Hoffman writes the children a letter asking them to tell him about when, where and for whom they pray.
Serving as prayer partners for children preparing for First Reconciliation, First Communion and Confirmation.
Participating in the parish prayer line or new prayer shawl ministry.
Leading the rosary before weekend Masses during May and October.
Midge Tatro and Shirley Harder started the line three or four years ago. They both coordinate it.
People can request prayer by calling either woman or the parish office. A request cannot be put on the prayer line without permission of the family involved, Tatro said.
When Tatro receives a request for prayers, for example, she calls Harder. The two then start making calls on two lines, which speeds up the process, she said. Each line has about 15 volunteers, each of whom writes down the request exactly as it was given, calls the next person on the list, then prays about it.
If callers get an answering machine, they are not to leave a message.
The number of requests the prayer line receives can vary from nothing for weeks up to two to four per day. People prayed for may have cancer or heart problems, be experiencing difficult pregnancies or are facing hospital tests or surgery. Prayer line participants pray both for the requests and their families.
Tatro, who will give a witness talk at Masses on Lenten weekends, said: "[Prayer] shows you care. I just have such faith in prayer. I just love knowing that other people are going to be praying, knowing that they are to take that moment and pray."
Henricks said the Lenten fish fries, the fall festival and baking for parish events are the most popular of the 90-plus service opportunities.
Josh Diedrich, director of the Bishop's Appeal, said the Appeal supports the diocesan office of Stewardship & Pastoral Ministry, which supplies stewardship materials to parishes.
"We could not have done [this] without help from the diocese," Henricks said.
© Catholic Diocese of Green Bay
1825 Riverside Drive | P.O. Box 23825 | Green Bay, WI 54305-3825
Phone: 920-437-7531 | Fax: 920-437-0694 | E-Mail: [email protected]