Prayers of Seven Sisters bolster priests in their ministries
May 2, 2022
Father Taylor Leffler and Father Benjamin Boyd know they are not alone in their priestly ministry.
They each have a team behind them: a group of seven women – called Seven Sisters – who are committed to praying for their parish priest. Each woman on the team is assigned a specific day of the week to pray, for one hour before the Blessed Sacrament, for their priest and his intentions.
For Father Leffler, an associate pastor at St. Wenceslaus Parish in Omaha, that means that the woman on his team assigned to Saturdays will be praying for him as he prepares couples for marriages and as he officiates at weddings.
On Tuesdays, his day off, the woman assigned to that day might pray for the gift of rest, that he be rejuvenated for his ministry.
Father Boyd, an associate pastor at St. Stephen the Martyr Parish in Omaha, said he knows how much priests need prayer.
While he was still a seminarian a priest told him: “We can only do what we do because people are supporting us in prayer.”
“And I believe it to be 100% true,” Father Boyd said. “It’s by the wings of the prayers of the people that the priests are able to minister.”
Seven Sisters members currently pray for 41 priests in the Archdiocese of Omaha, said Katie Keller, organizer of the Seven Sisters Apostolate in the archdiocese.
But she’s hoping that number will soon expand.
A May 5 meeting at the Sacred Heart Parish Center in Norfolk was held with the founder of the international movement, Janette Howe, of the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis. She met with women already involved with the apostolate and with those interested in joining.
A previous meeting with Howe, in January 2020, was held at St. Patrick Parish in Fremont. Keller, a parishioner at St. Stephen the Martyr, said she was glad that the May 5 meeting was in Norfolk.
“I feel like there’s a need especially to pray for priests in the rural areas,” she said. “And there’s a lot of devout communities there.”
The Seven Sisters Apostolate, which began in 2011, lifts up prayers for priests at more than 1,350 parishes, chanceries, seminaries, hospitals and other sites around the world, according to the apostolate’s website.
Seven Sisters took root in the Archdiocese of Omaha in 2017.
Women make a yearly commitment to pray on a specific day of the week for a particular priest, often one of their parish priests. They can renew that commitment annually if they wish.
Each group has an anchoress as a leader.
The way a Seven Sisters group interacts with a priest is as varied as the priests they pray for. Some priests are content just knowing that they have someone praying for them every day. Others interact more actively with their group, asking them to intercede for specific needs or intentions.
The women might ask a priest about his favorite prayers or his favorite saints so they can join him in those prayers and in asking the saints for their intercession.
The women bond through their mutual prayers and in being “passionate about their cause of praying for priests,” Keller said.
Father Leffler has had a team praying for him for more than three years. He calls the women his sisters in Christ.
“Just the fact that they’ve agreed to pray one hour each week for me is really powerful,” Father Leffler said.
Their prayers have “buoyed me up quite a bit, especially on difficult days.”
The prayers helped, for example, when his father, Dana Leffler of St. Mary Parish in West Point, suffered a heart attack in March. Dana Leffler has since recovered, his son said.
The women also prayed when his priestly duties multiplied at his large parish. They’ve prayed when he’s gone on retreats and on vacations. They’ve prayed when he’s led retreats and other events. They’ve prayed when he was helping a St. Wenceslaus family through a tragic death.
“They know when my birthday is,” Father Leffler said. “It’s a beautiful, personal kind of intercession.”
“It’s so beautiful when people can express their love to their priests just by interceding for them,” he said. “We have to remember that that’s a spiritual work of mercy to pray for the living and the dead. So whenever someone prays for their priest, they are participating in a really powerful spiritual work of mercy.
“I also think it’s just so pleasing to the Lord because it shows their faith in the priesthood that Jesus himself established,” Father Leffler said. “It’s such a holy thing, and it’s a holy way for people to participate in the priesthood of the man who’s been assigned to them.”
‘BEAUTIFUL AND GENEROUS’
Father Boyd had a Seven Sisters team praying for him during his previous assignment at Christ the King Parish in Omaha, and some of those women continue to pray for him.
“They said ‘Father, I still want you to do this for you.’ And of course, that’s incredibly beautiful and generous,” he said.
Now he has another team at St. Stephen the Martyr praying for him.
When Father Boyd was in the seminary a priest had told him that people will teach you how to be holy. The Seven Sisters women do that, he said, by demonstrating their dedication and their love for priests.
“It’s such a beautiful gift to be given,” he said. “It’s nice to know that someone is dedicated to praying for you.”
Keller was a member of a Seven Sisters group at St. Stephen the Martyr for three years. But as her young family has grown she now serves as a substitute. She and her husband, Matt, have three children: Abby, 5; Tony, 3; and Victor, 1.
She appreciates that her children, as young as they are, can see the importance of devotedly praying for a priest.
Keller said she’s benefited as well.
“Offering a weekly hour incorporates my love of the priesthood and my desire to help a priest,” she said.
The apostolate has boosted her prayer life and her gratitude for priests, she said, and has her looking for other ways to help them, too.