COLORADO SPRINGS. Innovative and interactive “prayer stations” allow participants to experience prayer and meditation in unique ways that help them to encounter God.
By creating an environment and atmosphere that focuses on a particular theme, scripture passage, or liturgical season, prayer stations help guide participants into a potentially deeper relationship with God.
Within the Diocese of Colorado Springs, prayer stations have mostly been used in youth ministry events, such as confirmation retreats, and diocesan-wide high school and middle school rallies. However more recently Holy Apostles has also adopted prayer stations as a way to invite all parishioners into this type of prayer experience.
Terrie Hernandez, Director of Middle and High School Faith Formation at St. Francis of Assisi Parish in Colorado Springs, first learned about the concept of prayer stations during a youth ministry training that she attended in Denver, in the late 90s.
Although her training was with a Protestant group, and the prayer stations concept is mainly known through Protestant ministries, Hernandez saw their adaptability to Catholic ministry.
“We did experiential prayer . . . I just kind of duplicated it but in a little bit different way than what they had presented to me.”
“What I realized is they work because they connect us the way Mass connects us — the way we use all our senses at Mass. So that’s one element that I always try to put in — I try to include all five senses.”
“I often use scented oils or scented candles where allowed. For taste, I often use bread and juice to pray about the Eucharist or Last Supper.”
In the years since Hernandez first began using prayer stations, she has adapted them for a wider variety of occasions as well, such as for women’s groups, parent training for faith formation for children going through first reconciliation, for preparing for Christmas to help focus on Advent instead of commercialism. She has even brought them to national groups such as the National Federation for Catholic Youth Ministry (NFCYM).
Other parishes within the diocese, such as St. Peter in Monument and St. Rose of Lima in Buena Vista, have used the idea for their own youth ministries. Hernandez is happy to supply them with instructions.
“I’ve given them exact instructions about how to create different things I used in the display.”
In the case of Holy Apostles, parishioner Katie Logan first encountered prayer stations at a young adult conference she attended at St. Francis Parish. When Holy Apostles was looking for a way to invite the parish into a prayer experience in conjunction with the 2019 capital campaign, Logan offered to help set up prayer stations that focused on themes in the campaign prayer.
Hernandez offered many of the materials to help set up the displays. The prayer stations were set up prior to weekend Masses, in the parish hall as well as a few of the classrooms, and included stations for children and families, and adults.
They were described as follows: “Prayer Stations invite the pray-er to read, listen, reflect, and then respond. Prayer Stations may use color, light, sound, smell, and textures to help focus prayer and attention on God.”
Although the majority of parishioners had never experienced or even heard of prayer stations, many took advantage of the invitation to participate in this unique prayer experience.
The stations were self-paced and allowed for anyone to spend as much or as little time as desired at each station. Each station had a handout which included the theme, appropriate scripture verses, and questions and actions for that particular station.
One station had the participant write a letter of gratitude to God, after reading a collection of quotes from the Bible about the love of our heavenly Father for us. One station’s focus was “Renew and Restore” and featured a peaceful setting that included a water fountain, candles, and images of nature.
Those who spent time at the stations expressed gratitude for the opportunity to connect with God in such a multi-sensual way.
More recently Holy Apostles has offered prayer stations experiences at Mary’s House of Evangelization in conjunction with the parish’s “Stewardship of Prayer” commitment weekends.
On Aug. 29-30, Katie Logan again spearheaded the project, this year with a theme of “Jesus Our Cornerstone.” Ten stations were included, and because of COVID, Logan also created the stations online for anyone not comfortable with being there physically (https://womenslifegroupha.wixsite.com/prayer).
One response from this most recent experience was from parishioners Tom and Laurie Ghigleri.
“We were struck by the themes of responding to change, building up one another/strength, and mercy that were woven through the prayer stations this year. The Armor of God, Divine Mercy, and Married Couples stations were ones where we spent quite a bit of time in reflection on the scriptures and activities presented. We are using the handouts and prayers during our time in Eucharistic Adoration and in conversation with each other to deepen our faith and relationship with God and one another.”
Parishioner Aurora Chen shared that she wasn’t planning to go to prayer stations because she was exhausted from working overtime. After purchasing of a second-hand purse on a whim, and picking it up on her way home from work, she noticed that it contained a beautiful butterfly clip with a scripture passage written on it, Philippians, 4:4-7, exhorting readers to rejoice and be at peace. She had been feeling discouraged and was finding it hard to be kind to others, at work and at home, and thought the Lord was speaking to her in this passage. She decided to go to Holy Apostles after dinner.
Once there, she noticed that one of the stations was titled, “Peace & Joy,” and the first verse on the handout was Philippians 4: 7 — another sign that God was speaking to her.
She experienced true peace as she meditated on the words included in the handout. Chen explained, “It’s so hard to find joy in the world right now. But it was explained beautifully,” and after spending more time at the other stations as well, she said, “I came out of there joyful. You can feel peace at each station.” The experience helped her remember to be more kind and joyful to people she has encountered.
Of the prayer experiences Logan has facilitated at Holy Apostles, she said, “It has been wonderful to see how God has worked through the prayer stations to bring an opportunity to so many for deeper prayer and reflection.”
Hernandez has seen many varied responses to prayer stations in all her years presenting them. “Some people get really overwhelmed with emotion. Some people felt they just have such peace while they’re sitting or praying or just in the room. I’ve had parents crying, watching their kids experience it . . . people who just got so filled with joy all they could do was smile.”
One boy in particular wrote a simple note after a confirmation retreat that touched Hernandez, and she has kept it for many years. “It said, ‘Thank you for showing me God.’”
Hernandez says of her ministry using prayer stations, “I try to focus on things that are out of the ordinary experience to kind of help people encounter Jesus in different ways, because we need to do that now more than ever.”
Hernandez is willing to provide anyone with information and instructions about setting up prayer stations in their own parish. Contact her at email@example.com or 719-599-5031, ext. 111.
(Linda Oppelt is administrative assistant for The Colorado Catholic Herald.)