When Michaelene Lucia signed up to be a prayer partner for the Advent Prayer Project at her parish, St. Michael in St. Cloud, she hoped it would be a worthwhile activity for her and her 17-year-old son Gino.
Before Advent, the social justice committee of St. Michael Church in St. Cloud and St. Joseph Church in Waite Park proposed a way to connect both the Hispanic and non-Hispanic communities — by matching members from each community together to pray for one another during the Advent season. Participants received a card with a description of the family or individual they would be praying for.
Lucia along with St. Joseph parishioner Florence Sheesley were matched with Perla and Adrian Ramos and their two daughters, Paulina, 18, and Natalie, 12. Coincidentally, Lucia’s son Gino was in the same confirmation class as Paulina.
After weeks of prayer, Lucia met with her prayer partners for the first time Jan. 10 at a gathering of about 40 project participants, who shared a meal and got to know one another better.
Lucia, who teaches sixth grade at Kennedy Elementary School in St. Joseph, felt like she gained new understanding, which she said will help her in the classroom as well.
“I was interested in finding out about the immigration issues that the Hispanic community faces,” she said. “I was happy to have the young ladies there to explain some of the things [many Hispanic youth] worry about, like the fear of not knowing if their parents will be there when they get home from school and the pressure of always having to make sure to keep their grades up so they can stay in some of the programs they are in.”
For the Ramos family, it was a chance to be heard — and understood.
“There are a lot of things that people don’t understand about us,” Perla Ramos said. “When there are opportunities like this to explain what our lives are like, then there can be understanding. There can be change.”
Many of the individuals and families exchanged contact information to stay in touch with their prayer partners, which the committee had hoped would be the result.
“We are all a community, people living in the same area, in the same community, but we all have such diverse backgrounds,” Lucia said. “This was a good way to get to know each other a little more.”