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Seven Sisters Apostolate supports priests with prayer

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The Seven Sisters Apostolate brings together women to pray for bishops and priests. More than 300 women are involved in the Diocese of Nashville. Courtesy of Seven Sisters Apostolate

The Seven Sisters Apostolate, which started in Minnesota and has spread across the country and to the Diocese of Nashville, brings together women to pray for priests and bishops

“The idea for Seven Sisters Apostolate originated with Janette Howe, a resident of St. Paul, Minnesota, 10 years ago,” said Rosemary Geiger, a parishioner at Our Lady of the Lake Church in Hendersonville and the diocesan coordinator for the apostolate.

Howell “simply felt the need to pray for her own parish priest, … who was also a close friend of her son and helped him choose the priesthood as a vocation,” Geiger said.

The project spread and today has more than 2,000 active Apostolates. At Our Lady of the Lake, Geiger noted, “we have 40 strong Catholic women in four groups who pray for our pastor, Father Austin Gilstrap, and our two associate pastors, Father Thomas Kalam and Father Luke Wilgenbusch.”

Another priest, Father Luckas Arulappa, MSFS, who has returned to ministry in his native India after serving as associate pastor at Our Lady of the Lake and as pastor at Sacred Heart Church in Loretto, “is the first priest in India to have an apostolate praying for him,” Geiger said.

“Each woman takes one hour, one day a week, for one priest, to pray for that priest’s needs and intentions,” Geiger said.

Geiger added that a bishop, who has greater responsibility, “has three women a day who pray for him, one hour per week, and around the diocese we now have 300 women actively involved.”

Geiger first went to Father Eric Fowlkes, then the pastor at Our Lady of the Lake, for approval to start the apostolate there. “I have never met a priest who said ‘no’ to our idea of initiating a group in their parish,” she said.

“Rosemary arrived here from California with many ideas that were just great for Our Lady of the Lake, and this Apostolate was one of them,” said Father Fowlkes, now the pastor of the Cathedral of the Incarnation in Nashville.

“We ended up with a fine ministry, and one that is very time-consuming” for the women, Father Fowlkes said.

“These women give out of love; they send us cards and letters, and always want to know if we have any special intentions; these are some of the best Catholic ladies in the area,” said Father Fowlkes.

To get things rolling, Geiger said, “I went up to women who were attending our church’s adoration and told them about the Apostolate.”

“One Hispanic lady got her group started – they pray for Father Thomas – and my own was also up and running, all of this within just 10 days,” Geiger said.

Feedback from the community has been positive. “Women have said that participating in the Apostolate has made them feel so close to God, that they now attend Adoration three times a week,” Geiger said.

“The pandemic isolated them so terribly. They missed it – and now are just on fire and hungry for things like Bible study,” said Geiger.

The enthusiasm, added Geiger, “was so catching that when Father Eric was moved to the Cathedral a year ago, we got another group going for him there.”

Maribeth Johnson, who will mark her two-year anniversary with the Apostolate in August, first learned about the project in an earlier Tennessee Register article two years ago.

“I met Rosemary for lunch after a Bible study at Our Lady of the Lake … and very much wanted to be a part of the Seven Sisters Apostolate, and later Rosemary gave a talk to a ladies guild at my former church in Murfreesboro, St. Rose of Lima.”

“Seven women responded immediately to come together and pray for their pastor, and later on another organized and went all out for the parish’s three priests,” said Johnson.

Johnson is now the “anchoress” for Bishop J. Mark Spalding, overseeing 21 ladies in her parish’s apostolate.

“Three ladies per day pray for one hour, seven days a week, and I myself do a Holy Hour prayer once weekly on Sunday,” Johnson said.

A cornerstone of each group’s dedication to their project is the Seven Sisters Apostolate booklet. “The booklet includes three pages of guidance for praying the Holy Hour, the Novena of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, and other useful guidelines,” Johnson said. “Our ladies are fee to use whatever prayer or prayers that they want, and these inclusions are merely suggestions.”

Anyone interested in joining the Apostolate or starting it in their parish should contact Geiger at 760-505-6625 or mysrose@att.net. For more information about the Apostolate, visit www.sevensistersapostolate.com.

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