Decade Darlings group unites students in prayer

It takes just 15 minutes, but that’s enough time to feel the power of prayer.

That’s what several students at Marian High School in Omaha said recently about a prayer group that meets every day after school – and has been for the past three years.

Instead of heading home or to extracurricular activities after the dismissal bell, a handful of students gather in the school chapel to pray a decade of the rosary. Each girl shares a petition and leads a Hail Mary. Then they listen to a short reflection and talk for a bit. The girls – often joined by a few staff members – typically pray a full rosary every week.

"After a long day at school, I enjoy retreating to the chapel knowing that I can pray with my fellow sisters before we all go to our after-school activities," said sophomore Annie Foley. "I feel so much more calm and refreshed, especially if I’m having a bad day."

Students began gathering to pray a decade of the rosary together during the 2013-2014 school year, after a car accident seriously injured two Marian students and claimed the life of a student at Mount Michael Benedictine High School near Elkhorn. The prayers continued, even after the injured girls recovered and returned to school.

The next school year, Meg Shonsey and Sara Greisch, then seniors at Marian, decided to make the Decade Darlings an official school club.

"Our faith and love of our Blessed Mother kept us coming every day to pray and enjoy that small faith community within our larger Marian family," said Shonsey, now a sophomore at the University of Mary in Bismarck, N.D. "Girls and even teachers looking to Mary for refreshment after a day of school still come to say a simple decade of the rosary, giving them the perseverance needed to complete the day well."

Marsha Kalkowski, English and journalism teacher at Marian and moderator of the Decade Darlings, said the club keeps a regular roster, which lists about 40 girls, but there is no pressure to come every day. Still, a few attend daily.

"School schedules are somewhat chaotic and those girls in the play or Show Choir or spring sports or with after-school jobs sometimes will pop their head into the chapel and ask for a special prayer intention before heading off to their other obligations," she said.

And once a month, the girls gather with members of the Servants of Mary – the order of the school’s foundress – to pray the Dolor Rosary, which focuses on the sufferings of Mary.

The tight prayer community continues even when students graduate, with many girls texting each other and asking for prayers while they’re away at college, Shonsey said.

"I miss that daily community and support that Decade Darlings gave me, but it taught me to seek that out in college," she said.

Shonsey said offering her sufferings and worries to Mary in the decade of the rosary has helped deepen her spiritual life in college. Now she prays a full rosary each day, she said.

Maria Determan, a junior at Marian who joined the Decade Darlings as a freshman, said she would encourage other schools to start a similar group because of the positive impact it has on those who participate.

"The impact that a decade of the rosary can have on someone’s day is indescribable," Determan said. "When a group of students and staff are able to lift up their intentions, not only is a burden lifted from their hearts, but the hearts of the suffering are handed over to God."

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