Last summer brought to light how terribly wounded the Church, the Body of Christ, is. As St. Paul tells us, “if one member suffer any thing, all the members suffer with it” (1 Cor. 12:26). When the Body of Christ is injured, we fall on our knees! We pray. We follow the example of the women at the foot of the cross. We follow the example of Mary in Bethany, sitting at the feet of Jesus. We answer Jesus’s request to spend an hour with Him in prayer.
Why? To strengthen our priests! We need to pray for our priests. As Fr. Gerald Fitzgerald (Founder of the Handmaids of the Precious Blood) said:
In strengthening the priest
you strengthen the whole Church…
Strengthen the priest and
you strengthen the whole foundation,
you strengthen everything in the Church.
One concrete way to do this is through the Seven Sisters Apostolate: “A call to strengthen the Church by ensuring that a Holy Hour is prayed each day of the week for the sole intention of a specific priest or bishop — a … lavishing of prayer for [that priest’s] deeper conformity to Christ.”
Seven Sisters was started in 2011 by Janette Howe in St. Paul, Minnesota. For a year, she had been offering a holy hour once a week for her pastor and was guided, in prayer, to invite six other women to do so as well. The Holy Spirit impressed upon her two specific directives.
- Each intercessor’s weekly Holy Hour should be only for the priest.
- Each should ask for the priest’s deepening devotion to our Blessed Mother.
When Janette talked to her pastor, he directed her to start the Apostolate with seven parishes — 49 women in total. By June, the first Seven Sisters groups made their one-year commitments. Just eight years later, the Apostolate has spread to over 800 parishes, chanceries, seminaries, and hospitals around the world — but most in the United States.
In August, 2018, a fellow parishioner, Mandy DeLauter, approached me about this apostolate about which she had read on a Catholic website. We thought it was a great idea—a powerful and concrete way to fight the good fight. I am the anchoress for our Seven Sisters group at Immaculate Conception Roman Catholic Church in Forest City, N.C., of which Father Herbert Burke is the pastor. The duties of the anchoress are to register the group, to make the schedule, to pray for the sisters, to advise the sisters of any special intentions of the pastor, and to forward the monthly communiqué to the sisters.
This commitment is for one year, from June to June, with May as a month of discernment to decide if another year of commitment is possible. However, a group can begin at any time of the year. Our group began on October 7, 2018, the Feast of Our Lady of the Rosary.
Moreover, some men of our parish have been inspired to join the effort in their own way. There are seven men who fast, each one day of the week, every week, specifically for our pastor. They call themselves the Fasting Brothers.
So moving and humbling is the devotion of these parishioners and the gratitude of Fr. Burke. The seven ladies in our group have affirmed that although the prayers are for Fr. Burke, they receive blessings through the Holy Hours as well. Mandy told me she has begun to understand much more about the priesthood since our group formed, and she is all the more grateful to our pastor.
Teri O’Reilly said, “I feel so blessed to be just a small part of the Seven Sisters; knowing that the other six will be praying for Fr. Burke all week just makes me so happy. Also, having the men do their part and fasting is such a blessing. I have enjoyed the one hour of peaceful prayer for Fr. Burke in our beautiful chapel. Knowing that other parishes have their Seven Sisters and it has spread to all over the world is such a wonderful thing!”
Alma Resendiz affirmed that “lay people need to know the importance of setting aside some time to pray for our priest. With everything happening in the world, our priests need lots of prayers to keep focused, strong and keep us going. That is something I did not realize until I joined Seven Sisters.”
If you would like more information, you can check the website SevenSistersApostolate.org, which includes history, prayers, and locations of the apostolate. There were only three groups in our diocese until news spread through an article in our diocesan newspaper. Now we have twelve groups!
What a blessing for our Church if this apostolate would spread to all the parishes, chanceries, seminaries…strengthening all of our priests!
Valerie Giggie, an alumna of Belmont Abbey College, is the Seven Sisters coordinator for the Diocese of Charlotte. She and her husband Michael, married for 27 years, have nine children, seven of whom live at home with them on the Double G Ranch — a work in progress! — in Rutherfordton, North Carolina. She is the proprietrix of GGveils on Etsy.com, making and selling chapel veils for women to wear during Mass and at prayer.