April 12, 2019

Prayer sent with appeal donations show people’s ‘burdens, faith’

Archbishop Charles C. Thompson reads one of more than 1,000 prayer intentions stacked on his desk that have been sent in so far with this year’s United Catholic Appeal pledge intentions and payments. He reads and prays for the intentions each year. Usually there are less than 100 requests. (Photo by Natalie Hoefer)

Archbishop Charles C. Thompson reads one of more than 1,000 prayer intentions stacked on his desk that have been sent in so far with this year’s United Catholic Appeal pledge intentions and payments. He reads and prays for the intentions each year. Usually there are less than 100 requests. (Photo by Natalie Hoefer)

By Natalie Hoefer

At a table covered with prayer intention cards stacked in piles of varying heights, Dana Stone randomly pulls a few of the handwritten notes and reads a line or two from each.

“That our son quits drinking.”

“For my husband’s conversion.”

“For all of my family who left the Church.”

“For the success of my wife’s cancer treatments.”

“That I find a good job close to home.”

Stone is not a member of a religious order or head of a prayer ministry. No, oddly it would seem—in terms of receiving prayer requests—she is director of appeals and creative services for the archdiocese’s Office of Stewardship and Development.

“People send them in every year” with the prayer request card attached to their United Catholic Appeal (UCA) intention form and payment reminders, she says. “Usually it’s not that many, though. Last year there were less than a hundred.”

Not so this year.

Since the launching of the annual appeal last fall, she says, “we had somewhere around 1,000 [requests] come in,” she says. “I’ve been just floored.

“And they’re just so moving—prayers for healing, prayers for family members who left the Church, prayers for people with addictions. I can’t just go right back to work after reading them. I am really moved.”

‘Petitions reveal people of compassion’

All prayer intentions Stone receives are passed on to Archbishop Charles C. Thompson.

“I read each intention, then I offer them up in personal prayer as well as Mass intentions,” he says.

“I am humbled and honored by the sense of faith, hope and love that permeates these intentions.

“The vast majority are prayers for family members who are ill or no longer practicing their faith.”

He says the overall tone of the petitions is compassion.

“ ‘Compassion’ comes from two Latin words that mean ‘to suffer with.’ The petitions reveal people of compassion who care about others and consequently carry burdens of great concern and care for those who are ill, going through difficult times or have abandoned the faith.”

Stone says she is especially touched by the intentions “clearly written by an elderly person in shaky handprint asking for prayers for their health or explaining why they aren’t able to give as much this year, but they still want to give because it’s so important to them.”

For example, one person writes, “My age causes health problems. I am 85. … Please pray so I feel better. I have pain in my hip and back.” Yet the person goes on to offer help by noting that “I can stuff envelopes sitting down, just not standing.”

Another person writes that they will send a check soon but “had some seizures and got behind on a lot of stuff. … I’m always thinking of you … .”

‘Intentions answered thanks to those who give’

As more requests rolled in, Stone noticed a connection between the intentions and the services of the Church in central and southern Indiana that address their needs and concerns.

“What I don’t think people realize is that many of the intentions that we see … are being answered thanks to those who faithfully give to the United Catholic Appeal” that help archdiocesan ministries, she says.

For instance, many prayer requests focused on those suffering from drug addiction, depression and other mental health issues. Funds donated to the UCA benefit the archdiocesan Office of Human Life and Dignity, whose ministries address each of those needs, and Catholic Charities Bloomington, which offers mental health counseling.

Other requests mention a parent or spouse with dementia. One request asked for prayers for “my wife with Alzheimer’s, and for me so that I stay healthy so I can care for her.” Caregivers can receive help through at least two ministries receiving appeal funds: Catholic Charities in Indianapolis offers caregiver support groups, and the mental health services offered by Catholic Charities Bloomington addresses those dealing with life adjustments, stress and more.

Several intention cards expressed concern regarding infertility issues. Should such a couple be open to adoption, they could seek help from St. Elizabeth Catholic Charities in New Albany or St. Elizabeth/Coleman Pregnancy and Adoption Services in Beech Grove. Both agencies receive UCA funding.

As he read the intentions, Archbishop Thompson says he was struck by “how much people, especially parents for their children, worry about the spiritual well-being of souls.” Catholic schools and Young Adult and College Campus Ministry—both direct beneficiaries of the United Catholic Appeal—help address this concern.

Many donors also sought prayers for struggling families and for troubled youths. Becky’s Place in Bloomington, Holy Family Shelter in Indianapolis and Ryves Youth Center in Terre Haute all benefit from the appeal.

And the many prayer requests for an increase in vocations are directly affected by works of the archdiocesan Office of Vocations and Bishop Simon Bruté College Seminary in Indianapolis, both appeal fund recipients.

People with burdens, and steadfast faith

Not only were there far more prayer intentions sent in with UCA donations this year, says Stone, but also the listing of a new intention from years past: requests for prayers revolving around the priest sex-abuse scandal.

“Purification of our Church!” reads one request in all capital letters. “For the victims of child sex abuse by priests and for a swift decision to hold those accountable …” reads another.

One reader used all of the lines on the intention card to pray for “healing and justice for abuse victims; renewal of the Church and her leaders; that bishops and pastors, sisters and brothers, recognize this time of crisis and be willing to implement changes if necessary … .”

Stone suspects emotions regarding this issue played a large role in the drastic increase in prayer intentions submitted with appeal pledge cards and payment slips this year.

“Look at all that’s happened over the last six to nine months” in terms of the Church she says. “Maybe it just has people in a different mindset.”

For Archbishop Thompson, the number of intentions speak to the state of people’s hearts.

Through the prayer requests, he says, “People share their hopes and concerns, especially for the Church, the world, their families and their friends.

“It’s obvious that many people carry tremendous burdens, but remain steadfast in faith.”

(For more information about the annual United Catholic Appeal or to contribute, go to storybook.link/UCAstorybook or call the Office of Stewardship and Development at 800-382-9836, ext. 1415, or 317-236-1415.)

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