Omaha apostolate offers ideas for supporting priests through prayer
By MIKE MAY
In the midst of the sexual abuse scandal rocking the Catholic Church, an archdiocesan prayer apostolate is encouraging people around the archdiocese and worldwide to “Pray for our Priests.”
Organized nine years ago, Maria Regina Cleri long has urged Catholics to unite in prayer for priests, and is now stepping up its efforts to support all the good, faithful priests, and those who have fallen, said Sherry Brownrigg, one of the group’s founders and a member of St. Vincent de Paul Parish in Omaha.
“Our mission is the prayerful support of the ministerial priesthood, religious and consecrated life, with a special focus on priests, because that’s where there seems to be the most concern from people all over the world,” she said.
Brownrigg said the recent scandals have prompted the apostolate to reach out to parishes, encouraging members to pray for their pastors and associate pastors. The effort is taking root in several parishes, such as St. James and Our Lady of Lourdes in Omaha, St. Patrick in Gretna, Sacred Heart in Norfolk and St. Boniface in Elgin, she said.
Now the group plans to hold information meetings to help other parishes and individuals mount a prayer ministry of their own.
The meetings are set for 7 p.m. Oct. 23 at St. James Church in Omaha and Oct. 30 at the parish center at St. Mary Church in Norfolk.
“There’s a special, mystical relationship that happens between the shepherd of a parish and his flock, so their prayers for him are especially effective,” Brownrigg said.
“This is an important time to pray for our priests. They’re on the front lines and consistently being tempted by Satan.
“We’ve known for eons that he would attack the church through our priests,” she said. “So, if we can step up and intercede for them, it will be a much stronger priesthood, and a much stronger and holier church.”
Maria Regina Cleri offers a variety of ideas and prayer resources, Brownrigg said. Parishes are using various approaches, including praying together before the entrance procession at Masses, holy hours, prayer groups and daily prayer by individual parishioners on a rotating basis, she said.
It’s not a “one size fits all” approach, she said. “Every parish has its own rhythm and charism, so parishes can decide what is the best way, but we have lots of ideas to share.”
“There are so many people saying, ‘What can I do?’ so this is a very effective answer,” Brownrigg said. “Good priests need to be prayed for, as well as those who have gone astray. We need to pray for all of them.”
Based in Omaha, Maria Regina Cleri was founded by the late Msgr. Peter Dunne, along with Brownrigg and Vicki Herout, a member of St. Robert Bellarmine Parish in Omaha.
In 2006, Msgr. Dunne and Herout became aware of a critical need to begin praying for priests, Brownrigg said, inspiring them to start a Friday prayer group at the monsignor’s apartment.
The group later began a First Friday devotion, including praying the rosary and eucharistic exposition, that continues today at the St. John Vianney retirement residence for priests, she said.
Maria Regina Cleri (Latin for Mary, Queen of the Clergy) became an official apostolate of the archdiocese in 2009, inspired by Pope Benedict XVI’s proclamation of a “Year for Priests.”
The apostolate reaches out to people worldwide through its website, prayingforourpriests.com, offering books, audio CDs and other prayer resources such as rosary meditations and prayers for the Stations of the Cross. Materials are free but donations are accepted.