Amanda Woodiel explains how to start a parish prayer apostolate based on intercessory prayer for married couples and families.
Our parish created a five-year plan in which one of the three priorities discerned was to increase the support for marriages and families. Our pastor asked me to execute this portion of the plan. Oh, how honored was I and how zealous! I assembled a team, brainstormed ideas, delegated, followed up, and … basically fell flat on my face. Pride goeth before the fall, and I had a gargantuan amount of pride.
This was the time in my life when the Lord revealed to me a truth that has been one of the greatest graces of my life: that He, the Lord, is HE WHO DOES and that I am she who does not.
It was humbling, but it was the truth—and it did set me free. It freed me from worrying about the numbers of people who show up to an event; freed me from frustration with people above me who aren’t supporting the project in the way I see best; freed me from the fear that I’m doing things all backwards anyway. As long as I’ve done what I believe the Lord asked me to do to prepare, if He Who Does wants it to be an event for five people, so be it. He would have died for one soul; wouldn’t He host an event for five people? If Our Lord wants a program to come to our parish, He Who Does will move the hearts of decision-makers to embrace it.
It has been two and a half years now since I began my part in the parish priority plan, and the more I've thought about how to support marriages and families, the more I strongly believe that prayer—especially in front of the Blessed Sacrament—is the most foundational thing we can do. In fact, it's the most foundational thing we can do for ALL parishioners, whether married or not.
Our parish has an apostolate called “The Seven Sisters,” a group of women who each take one day of the week to make a Holy Hour for our priests. I wondered: What would happen if we created a similar apostolate to pray for specific needs of parishioners? By the grace of God, we have just launched a new prayer apostolate at our parish that does just this. What would happen at your parish if you also made a Holy Hour for your parishioners? What if parishes across the nation did?
If you, in prayer, hear from He Who Does that He desires to start a similar apostolate at your parish, here are the basic steps I took.
- Talk to your pastor about the idea. He is the Father of the parish, the dad.
- If you get the go-ahead from the pastor, pray about whom you might invite to be a part of the ministry. I sent out an email to fifteen people who came to mind, and five of them very quickly volunteered to take a day. This was such a God thing!
- Put an announcement in the bulletin and on social media asking for more volunteers.
- Set up a way for parishioners to submit prayer requests. Ask the IT person at your parish to help with two things: setting up a new email account (something like “firstname.lastname@example.org”) where people can email their prayer requests and a google form embedded in the website that can also be used to submit prayer requests (so as to remain anonymous. I suppose a good hacker could probably see what IP address the person who filled out the form used, but in the normal way of things, no one will know who sent it).
- Print out all prayer requests (be cautious about any identifying details; err on the side of anonymity) and put them in a spot at the church entrance where everyone making a Holy Hour knows to find them. We have a mail slot mounted on the wall with a simple gold sign that says “Prayer Requests.” Whoever has that day to pray can come to the church, take the prayer requests in with them to pray, and return them to the slot afterward.
One of our priests told me often that he felt the graces of the Holy Hours that his Seven Sisters made for him. I asked him to elaborate:
I've recently been meditating upon how God accomplishes His will on Earth: through our hands. So how do our prayers factor into that? If God accomplishes His will through our hands, then God uses the words of our lips to write His will.
Our prayers do not change God's will but help write it! This has been my experience in my personal prayer and especially in the intercession of my seven sisters.
Every week, I would send intentions to my sisters: my fidelity to my promises, my devotion to the Lord, the stressful meetings coming up, or the couples I was preparing for marriage. I would even note any priestly gatherings for which I was excited! I just wanted all the sorrows, joys, and glories of my priesthood to be a part of His will, to be anointed with His grace.
Since being ordained, certain virtues have been easier than before, or better yet—the temptations are weaker! There are graces in the sacrament, without doubt, but there are also unseen intercessors who desire my holiness even more than I do sometimes!
And when certain moments of grace come through a marriage preparation meeting or a funeral homily or a lunch with a priest brother, I am convinced that it is far more than simply my own petty talents at work.
The Lord can accomplish His will through my hands, but the grace flows all the more generously through the words of those who intercede for me.
What can the Lord accomplish through your hands and your words?
In a few months I will report back to tell you what He Who Does did!
Copyright 2023 Amanda Woodiel
About the Author
Amanda Woodiel is a Catholic convert, a mother to five children ages 14 to 6, a slipshod housekeeper, an enamored wife, and a “good enough” homeschooler who believes that the circumstances of life—both good and bad—are pregnant with grace. Her oldest son was diagnosed with cancer in the summer of 2022, which is providing plenty of opportunities to test that hypothesis.