Cristo Rey parishioner brings ‘Seven Sisters’ apostolate to diocese
Story by S.L. Hansen
(SNR) - Seven years ago, a Catholic woman in the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis was inspired by the Holy Spirit to start an apostolate of prayer dedicated to Catholic priests. Now, women in the Diocese of Lincoln are joining in earnest.
Initially, Janette Howe of Minnesota only sensed encouragement to pray more frequently for her pastor, Father Joseph Johnson, rector of the Cathedral of St. Paul. One day it occurred to her that she could best show her gratitude for his tireless work by offering a holy hour once a week for him. She didn’t mention it to Father Johnson, but trusted that her small sacrifice would be a benefit to him. She persevered through distractions, even resisting the temptation to pray for other people during what she called “Father’s Holy Hour.”
After nearly a year of this practice, Howe was praying her holy hour for Father Johnson when she heard the words “Seven Sisters.” She thought she had misheard the second word and, desiring to be obedient to the Lord, she reached into her purse for her Chaplet of the Seven Sorrows. But then the words came to her more clearly: “Seven Sisters.”
In silence, she waited as the Lord shaped the idea in her mind: Howe was to invite six other women to offer a holy hour once a week for Father Johnson, just as she was doing.
The thought filled her with joy, and the women she contacted, as well. In fact, Howe found seven women willing to pray holy hours for the pastors of seven churches: 49 women in total.
Since that time, Howe has shared the apostolate with women from other dioceses, in the hope that many more groups of Seven Sisters will pray for priests. She was recently at St. John the Apostle Parish in Lincoln to talk about the apostolate and how it works. She was invited to Lincoln by Connie Munguia of Cristo Rey Parish, who has established Seven Sisters groups to pray for their priests. She first heard about the apostolate from a dear friend who belonged to a Seven Sisters group in Minnesota.
“The first time she told me, I thought it was a wonderful thing to do for priests,” Munguia said. “But it wasn’t until she shared what she was doing a second time that the Holy Spirit really opened my ears and my heart, and started working on me.”
Munguia found sharing the idea with other women joyful, as well.
“For the most part, the women I asked immediately said ‘yes’ to becoming a Seven Sister,” she said. “They understood the concept and the importance of supporting our priest.”
She described praying as a Seven Sister as “a beautiful gift” to give any priest or bishop.
“Satan is always prowling about… more than happy to tempt them the most,” Munguia reasoned.
Rhonda Litt of St. John the Apostle Parish said she’s also been “spreading the word” about the prayer apostolate, so that each diocesan priest will have a team of women making holy hours for them.
“We have all four priests covered at North American Martyrs, and St. Peter has (a team for) Father Townsend,” she said.
Litt also indicated that her own parish, as well as Ss. Mary and Joseph in Valparaiso, St. Teresa in Lincoln, and St. Vincent de Paul in Seward are all at various stages of forming groups of Seven Sisters to pray for their pastors.
“My prayer is that all the Lincoln Diocese priests will be covered in prayer through the apostolate when Janette comes (back to speak in June 2018),” Litt said. “I know it would take a miracle, but ‘nothing is impossible with God!’”
Munguia agreed. “I wish for every priest in the Lincoln Diocese to have a Seven Sisters group praying a holy hour for them,” she said. “I would like to see a group of 21 women from all the parishes in the Lincoln Diocese pray for Bishop Conley – morning, afternoon, night.”
This prayer apostolate, she said, “is a spiritual gift that keeps on giving.”
She explained, “Our pastors and bishop reap benefits, but we also receive so much by our sacrifice for them.”