WAHOO (SNR) - As students, educators and parents prepare to celebrate Catholic Schools Week, many will be finding occasion to pray more frequently for the success of our diocese’s 27 elementary schools, six high schools and Villa Marie Home and School for Exceptional Children.
At Bishop Neumann Junior and Senior High School in Wahoo, a team of intercessors have made prayer for their school a daily endeavor.
"We started the Neumann Intercessors this year as a way to inflame our young people with the desire to love and serve God more," explained Sister Janelle Buettner, M.S., who coordinates the efforts.
The idea came when members of the religion department ended the 2011-12 school year with a frank discussion about how to build faith in the students.
"Teaching the kids religion classes is definitely necessary," Sister Janelle said, "but so much more needs to happen in the lives of our youth in order for them to keep the faith."
Each of the educators recognized competing interests that can gradually make matters of faith seem far less important.
Sister Janelle said American prosperity and materialism makes it even more difficult for students to live the faith.
"Sometimes I think Americans would be better off if we didn’t have money like we do," she speculated. "Of course, I like the amenities as much as the next person, but when we don’t have a crisis of the bare necessities, we forget God is the ultimate provider."
All summer, Sister Janelle pondered how she could help Neumann students understand this without manufacturing that "crisis of bare necessities."
Ultimately, she realized that, "Creatively finding a way to enhance their faith is not going to happen without the grace of God. I honestly don’t think there is any other way than storming heaven daily for this intention."
So, she decided to start by asking the Neumann community to pray that the students would be able to experience God while at Neumann, and also for the teachers, staff, benefactors, and volunteers.
With the support and help of superintendent Father Brian Kane, Sister Janelle organized the Neumann Intercessors, who pray for these two intentions daily. An email was sent out inviting people to become part of the new endeavor.
Angie and Patrick Burke are two of the charter members.
"It’s an opportunity to cooperate with the promptings of the Holy Spirit for prayer specifically for all those in the Bishop Neumann School Community," Mrs. Burke said.
Being a Neumann Intercessor is a simple matter of committing oneself to pray for everyone connected with the school.
Mrs. Burke shared her typical daily intercession: "I ask God, the Blessed Mother, and the holy angels and saints to bless our community, that the Lord will protect each person against any and all evil, for the safeguard of each person.
"I ask the Lord to grant that each person has an ongoing conversion toward Him and that the Light of Christ will shine through each person in their individual personality, and mannerism."
Additionally, the group is contacted before penance services, retreats and so on. Sister Janelle and Father Kane started a monthly all-day Adoration on the Thursdays before each First Friday, where students and Neumann Intercessors share the half-hour time slots.
Mrs. Burke said that she trusts God to answer these intercessory prayers, especially in light of James 5:16, which promises, "The prayers of a righteous person is powerful and effective."
"Neumann Intercessors is an avenue to bring to awareness of the need for prayer for each other and to have trust and confidence that God Who hears our prayers will answer them in His time," she stated.
Of course, the intentions of the group are such that any evidence of answered prayers would be long-term, but Sister Janelle said there is already some fruit being borne from these prayerful labors in terms of growing faith among certain students.
Anybody is welcome to join the Neumann Intercessors. There are no dues or meetings to attend; the only requirement is a commitment to pray for the students, faculty, staff and volunteers at Neumann.
"The nice thing about Neumann Intercessors is you can be involved in any way possible," Sister Janelle said.