Stemming from one of their parish goals to improve evangelization and discipleship efforts, Sacred Heart Church in Sauk Rapids recently began convening “prayer huddles” following one of their three weekend liturgies.
At the end of Mass, anyone wishing to share a prayer intention is invited to gather in front of the worship space once the Mass has concluded. There, they are welcomed by adult and youth leaders and asked to share their intention aloud, moving from person to person until all intentions have been heard. The leader closes with prayer.
“It is a chance for our community to reach out and create a sense of hospitality and to build a welcoming and supportive community,” said Deacon Joe Kresky, who serves as the youth ministry coordinator at the parish. “It is a way we are ministering to each other, sharing and supporting each other, as disciples.”
Deacon Kresky said he often has people approach him after Mass, asking him to keep them in his prayers.
“That’s when it hit me. The need is here,” he said.
After gathering both adult and youth leaders, he wrote a note for the bulletin and invited people to “gather together and present their needs and desire to support each other in prayer.”
Though in its early stages, Deacon Kresky said the idea “has really taken off.”
“The first time we tried it, only a few came forward. More recently, there have been up to 25 participants,” he said.
Right now, the prayer huddles alternate Mass times each weekend, but Deacon Kresky said if it continues to grow they will expand the concept to more Masses.
Albert Brixius, a 12-year member of the parish, has taken part in the prayer huddle three times. He has heard a wide range of intentions from physical illness to mental and spiritual needs to other kinds of struggles and concerns about the world in general, he said.
“I may have needs but the bigger idea is that I’m part of this community,” he said. “The more I understand what’s going on with the community, the more I can relate to it and support it. If we tune into each other, we can make more appropriate responses to each other.”
The hope is that the impact of the prayer huddles will extend beyond the parish walls. Brixius said, for him, it already has. After learning of someone in need through the prayer huddle, Brixius visited a parishioner who is suffering from Alzheimer’s disease.
“Whether it’s interior and I pray about it at home, or it’s more of a concrete response to one of those needs, hopefully both will keep happening,” he said.
The initiative has about 12 leaders, both adult and youth. Jocelyn Thorson, a senior at Sauk Rapids Rice High School, is one of the youth leaders.
“It’s so powerful to hear everyone sharing what’s going on in their lives, to get to hear their story,” Thorson said. “It’s a vulnerable spot — for them to come forward and say their requests and it’s vulnerable for us, too, to see their sorrow. It can really change someone to see how much love there is in one [prayer huddle].”
Deacon Kresky has seen the continuity of people attending week to week, coming again to be embraced in prayer or returning with prayers of thanksgiving for previous weeks’ prayers.
“At Mass, we often say during the intercessions, ‘For the prayers in the silence of your own heart,’” he said. “Well, there’s nothing like putting skin on it.
“Prayer huddles are a way we are creating intimacy, of being affirmed and heard, and are creating a sense of belonging that millennials want, that really everyone wants,” Deacon Kresky said. “It may seem very simple, but the results have been amazing.”