Prayer chains are a type of ministry recognized by the Church as consisting of a designated group of people that supports individuals within the parish or group who are in need of prayers on a daily basis. They are a form of intercessory prayer.
In the Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend many parishes — small ones, large ones and rural and suburban, have healthy, vibrant prayer chains. Prayer requests can come from any lay person, clergy or consecrated religious.
The establishment of a prayer chain ministry in a parish can be done with just one or two individuals who want to accept phone, email or written requests for prayer. The requests are disseminated to others who wish to pray for all of the received petitions. The privacy of the person being prayed for is usually withheld if requested, although most parishes prefer that they be allowed to share it in the parish bulletin so that even more people can offer prayers.
Dee Malott is one of a couple primary contacts for the prayer chain ministry at St. Therese Parish in Fort Wayne. She said the parish secretary contacted her 20 or more years ago and asked her if she would be willing to coordinate and share incoming prayer requests with other prayer chain volunteers. It was a perfect volunteer job for a stay-at-home mom, even one living in the advent of cellphones and email.
Malott calls the next volunteer on the list after her, who takes the request and then calls the next two people on the list, to inform them of a new prayer request. This process is repeated until everyone on the list has been called. There’s no limit to the number of people who can participate in the prayer chain ministry: the more, the better, said Malott.
Malott noted that one benefit of communicating the request the old fashioned way, using the telephone, is that people just need to talk about whatever is bothering them, or their problem.” It allows parishioners to stay connected with others in the parish in a more personal way.
Ginny Uecker is at the forefront of this ministry alongside Malott and could not agree more. She added, “When people know you are praying for them, it makes both feel good. And people praying for others feel like they are actively doing something good for those who need prayer.”
Some parishes do coordinate their prayer chain ministry through the parish website or through an email address, though, if the number of volunteers is low or the number of requests high. Holy Family Parish in South Bend has a “Holy Family Prayer-Tree,” to which a person can email a request. St. Joseph Parish in Bluffton lists two people who are willing to take prayer requests by phone or email, and includes the guidelines for submissions.
St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Parish in Fort Wayne is among the larger parishes in the diocese. There is a picture prominently displayed on the front page of its website through which, by clicking on it, a person can sign up to become a prayer “warrior” or submit a prayer request. The information is channeled through the evangelization and discipleship coordinator. Prayer warriors then receive an email listing the prayer requests by topic, including general requests, ongoing illnesses, those serving in the military, those who are pregnant and those who are discerning a calling to the priesthood or religious life.
Christians are called by God to pray incessantly, and prayer chain ministries are an easy way to become more involved in the parish community. Praying for others strengthens relationships, both with each other and with God the Father. They are truly a beautiful spiritual gift to share.
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