Seven Sisters Apostolate aims to offer a holy hour for each priest every day
By Patty O'Connell
Photo: The Seven Sisters Apostolate held a coordinator workshop in Wichita, Kansas Oct. 12-14. (Photo courtesy of Patty O’Connell)
Could you not watch with me one hour?” This plea of the Eternal High Priest, our Lord Jesus Christ, to his beloved disciples (Mt. 26:40) is also my plea to my beloved sisters in Christ throughout the diocese of Colorado Springs. I invite women to participate in an apostolate that not only strengthens the Church but abundantly blesses those who pray.
Begun in 2011 by Janette Howe of St. Paul, Minnesota, the Seven Sisters Apostolate consists of a core group of seven women praying a holy hour one day of the week (covering each day of the week), specifically for their pastor or parochial vicar. Seven Sisters is now in 26 countries, with more than 3600 groups on six continents. The simplicity of the apostolate is such that no meetings or mandatory gatherings are required. Seven women, organized by one leader (called the anchoress), simply pray for one priest one hour per week on their designated day at a convenient time determined by each woman. The commitment is a generous offering of one year, with an opportunity to prayerfully discern to re-commit for another year.
The apostolate has experienced dramatic growth in the Colorado Springs diocese over the last 18 months. Thirty priests now have a holy hour prayed for them each day. This includes Bishop James Golka, parish priests, parochial vicars, and hospital chaplains.
Some people wonder why the apostolate doesn’t pray for all priests in general. Founder Janette Howe said she believes that God is entrusting this apostolate of women for some extraordinary reason we don’t fully understand. She sees this time of prayer for the sole intention of one priest as a “holy wasting”, much like the action of St. Mary Magdalene who “wasted” an expensive jar of nard to anoint the feet of Jesus (Mt. 26: 8-13).
The holy hour of a Seven Sister is intentionally for the priest himself, but the group is established for the position of the pastor or parochial vicar. If a priest is reassigned, then his successor becomes the recipient of those prayers, and every attempt is made to establish a new group for the priest at his new assignment.
While this holy hour each week may seem like a daunting commitment, there is no particular structure for that time of prayer. A Seven Sister has access to a simple guide book with specific prayers for the physical, emotional/social, and spiritual needs of the priest for whom she is praying. Her holy hour may include a rosary or scripture meditation, offered all for the sake of that particular priest. Each holy hour is unique depending upon the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. “When we give that hour of prayer, each and every second that passes is a priceless gift we all seek to be in the Kingdom of God,” says Deborah Washington, Anchoress at Holy Apostles Parish, one of the first groups in the diocese.
Seven Sisters in the Diocese of Colorado Springs were recently invited to a morning of recollection. A meditative talk by Father Thomas Pressley led into an hour of adoration and confessions, followed by Holy Mass, and then lunch and fellowship. About 45 women attended from parishes across the diocese. Women who commit to praying a holy hour each week express a conviction that not only does the priest benefit from this holy hour, but abundant graces are received by those who pray.
“When I first encountered the Seven Sisters Apostolate a few years ago, my heart was quickly drawn to offer myself to the quiet service of priests,” said Katlyn Charlesworth, anchoress at St. Mark Parish in Highlands Ranch. “And the opportunity to serve in simplicity, silence, and sacrifice . . . is a truly immeasurable grace! But what perhaps inspires me the most in this service is the apparent presence of feminine charism. In this age of self-seeking that tempts women to question their value in Holy Mother Church, it is ministries that are founded and function on the genius of woman which stand as beacons for true and holy feminism. As part of the Seven Sisters Apostolate, I have seen how our Lord has brought forth incredible fruit from the humble and dedicated prayer of our Sisters, blessing not only our priests, but our parish as a whole!”
In accord with the wisdom of the original inspiration for the apostolate, core groups consist exclusively of women. New groups associated with the apostolate have begun, such as Fasting Brothers, groups of men who commit to fasting one day/week for their priest.
Recognizing the need for prayer, pastors in the diocese have expressed interest in forming Seven Sisters groups at their parishes. Groups already established have answered the regular notices in bulletins and other media requesting the formation of new groups. Many more are needed. Approximately 45 priests in our diocese are without a Seven Sisters group. This includes parish priests, parochial vicars, hospital and military chaplains, and retired priests. The goal is for every priest in the diocese to have a holy hour prayed by a Seven Sister each day. One of the mottos of the Seven Sisters Apostolate is “No priest left behind!” All it takes is one woman to ask 6 other women to commit to praying one hour a week.
I recently attended the national Seven Sisters Coordinator workshop in Wichita, Kansas. The priests who spoke overflowed with gratitude for the women who pray for them. They provided specific, sobering examples of the tough situations priests and bishops contend with every day.
“What you are doing is huge,” said Father Darrin May of the Wichita diocese. “You have no idea what this prayer means to priests. You are changing the world.”
In my own life, I have never been part of something that is so simple, and yet so profound. I firmly believe this is one of the most significant apostolates of our time. My beloved sisters, let us not fall asleep during this important age in the life of the Church. Please prayerfully discern whether our Lord is asking you to watch and pray with Him.
(Patty O’Connell is the diocesan coordinator for the Seven Sisters Apostolate in Colorado Springs. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. For more information about the apostolate, visit https://sevensistersapostolate.org/)