A responsibility and a gift: Student prayer club teaches life lessons, touches lives

The stories Deb Schnettler has heard in the three short weeks since Cathedral’s new prayer club formed make the hair on her arms stand up — a “Spirit rush,” she calls it.

For six years, Schnettler has received countless prayer intentions from people around the world who are connected with Cathedral High School in St. Cloud. Some are alumni, some are friends and family of alumni and some are associated in other ways. As campus minister, Schnettler collects the prayer requests and, each week, members of the faculty and staff gather to pray for those in need.

Lately, Schnettler said, the number of requests and the intensity of the needs have increased significantly.

“The idea for the prayer club came to me in the middle of the night,” she said. “It was a true inspiration. This was an easy problem to solve. Instead of having a large group praying once a week, wouldn’t it be a wonderful opportunity to have students be connected with the people in need of prayer on a one-to-one basis praying several times daily?”

Students,Keaton LeClaire, Austin O'Keefe and Sydney Mahler are among 18 members of the Cathedral Prayer Club, who dedicate their daily life to praying for others.
Students Keaton LeClaire, Austin O’Keefe and Sydney Mahler are among 18 members of the Cathedral Prayer Club, who dedicate their daily life to praying for others.

Schnettler followed up on the idea of starting a prayer club at Cathedral, sharing it with her campus ministry class just before Thanksgiving. And the results, she said, have been nothing short of miraculous.

“As soon as I mentioned it, the students began coming forward one by one — students from all walks of life, male, female, different personalities, all kinds of different people,” Schnettler said. “And it was like each time I’d get a phone call from someone in need of prayer, a student would walk through my door looking for a prayer partner.”

This was exactly what happened with Cathedral senior Sydney Mahler.

“Mrs. Schnettler mentioned that there were people in need of prayer in our campus ministry class,” Mahler explained. “I thought about it all day, and at the end of the day I decided to email her and told her that I had a gut feeling that this was the right thing to do. I know if I was in a position where I needed someone to pray for me that I would really appreciate anybody in the community who was willing to pray for me.”

Just moments before Mahler arrived in her office, Schnettler received a call from someone about a young woman with a grave illness. Mahler immediately began praying for her as her prayer partner. Three days later, Mahler attended Mass.

“My prayer partner was really ill and wasn’t able to go to Mass. Before going to Mass I thought about going to Communion for her because she wasn’t able to,” Mahler said.

Her prayer partner died later that same day.

“It is so gratifying to know that she had someone praying for her in her last days,” Schnettler said. “It has been shared with me that the person died a peaceful death.”

Elements of prayer

The prayer starts and stops at the request of the person in need of prayer. So far, the club consists of 18 members. As the club develops, Schnettler hopes to meet regularly as a group to discuss general topics that arise from various circumstances students encounter.

“It’s walking these students through life and death situations. It’s kind of a class in a way — it’s a different part of teaching that you don’t usually get to have in a regular curriculum. In 42 years of working with students, this is the most different prayer initiative I’ve ever seen,” Schnettler said.

When she meets with a potential prayer club member, she talks with them individually, they pray together and, if the person is ready, he or she places his or her hands in Schnettler’s and makes a commitment to the club.

The club is based on two types of prayer — active prayer and attentive prayer.

“With active prayer, many times a day you will purposely bring them to mind. You say their name, say a few words and embrace them in prayer,” Schnettler explained.

“Attentive prayer is when they begin the day each day by rededicating themselves in sacrifice to everything they are doing in the day,” she said. “So that even if they’re sleeping or having fun or playing a game, the person is still honored and lifted up to God.”

Austin O’Keefe, a senior and prayer club member, said he knew immediately the prayer club was something he was being called to do in his heart.

“When I heard the announcement, I jumped at the opportunity,” O’Keefe said. “My job is to pray for that person anytime I possibly can. But the thing I don’t think people realize is that we are holding this person and their family and their needs in our head throughout the entire day. So whenever we have a second to say a prayer or even think about them, we can offer that up to God and let their intentions be known.

“This is a selfless reflection of what Jesus would want because we are not going to think about ourselves, we’re going to think about others,” he added. “It’s more than just simply praying a prayer for someone, it’s taking them and what they need into your heart and bringing it forth to God.”

Anonymity is key to the prayer connection. Partners only share first names and their intentions.

“The point is not necessarily to make a relationship, but rather to act like angels of God. We really respect the anonymity of the program. That allows the students to bring them purely and wholly to God,” Schnettler said.

“These young people have sacrificed their own time, in their own heads,” she said. “It’s such a sacrifice of who they are themselves, that even when they are sleeping, knowing they’ve dedicated their time to someone in need. To me to have so many come forward so quickly was truly a gift from God. They are truly giving a gift to someone else.”

Keaton LeClaire, also a senior at Cathedral, said being part of the prayer club is a responsibility and also a gift.

“I feel responsible to pray for them because I want them to get better,” he said, “but I also feel it is a gift that they can live through me and feel the life and healing that I can help bring to them.”

For more information, contact Deb Schnettler at 320-257-2134. All requests are kept confidential.

Author: Kristi Anderson

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