Schools offer diverse, prayerful experiences
By RENEE WEBB, Globe editor
Jan. 24, 2008
For students who attend Catholic schools, there is no shortage of prayer in
While the Eucharistic liturgy is the greatest prayer for Catholics, students
enrolled in Catholic schools of the Diocese of Sioux City have the opportunity
to participate in various forms of prayer.
Brenda Ferrie, principal at Sacred Heart School in Sioux City, noted that in
addition to teaching students structured forms of prayer, she said they try to
teach the children that anytime they have something to say to God, it can be a
form of prayer.
"A lot of things we do throughout our daily life or daily routine is a
form of prayer," she said. "We want them to know that God always has
an open door. There are not just certain times when we have to pray or certain
ways - God listens to everything we have to say."
There is no shortage of traditional prayer either. They say morning prayer,
prayer before meals in the classroom and after meal prayers in the cafeteria,
prayers to end the day and have weekly Mass to name just a few of the prayer
To get the students accustomed to offered petitions, after the morning prayer
with petitions over the intercom, students can offer individual petitions in the
classrooms. The petitions raise awareness about the need to care for others.
"In the individual classrooms - depending on the age of the student -
they may pray for a sick dog or that they lost a pencil," said Ferrie.
"They learn that no intention or prayer is silly."
At other times of the year they have prayed the rosary as a school, one time
being for the intention of Marilyn Blum, who is principal of Bishop Heelan
Catholic High School and is presently battling cancer. They have also
participated in Eucharistic adoration.
Ferrie said she liked the idea of offering various forms of prayer
"because students come from different backgrounds and families and each may
have a different way that they pray at home."
According to Jeff Lynch, principal at Sacred Heart School in Boone, students
at his school also have variety in prayer experiences in addition to Mass. Many
experiences tie into services centered on particular liturgical seasons of the
"For Advent, we have our Advent candle lighting and the kids sing and we
have our daily reading," he said. "We start every school day off with
a reading in the morning."
The rosary is also part of the prayer experience. Lynch noted that during
Advent, Lent and Catholic Schools Week - using a huge rosary - they pray the
rosary as a school. Generally, different classes will take a decade.
"During Catholic Schools Week to tie in with the theme of Light the Way,
we are going to do the Luminous Mysteries," said Lynch. "We are also
going to start the week off with a candlelight service to tie in with the theme
Individual prayer is also encouraged. He said he liked variety in prayer
because individual prayer means something different to everyone and "they
have to experience it in different forms to find out which form is best for
them. The more we introduce them to different forms of prayer, the more
comfortable they will be with their prayer life themselves."
Paula Templemeyer, a member of the faculty at St. Edmond Catholic School in
Fort Dodge, pointed out that along with weekly Mass, students have a
reconciliation service twice a year.
There is Eucharistic adoration in the school chapel on the first Friday of
every month and every Friday during Lent, she noted. Students in elementary,
middle school and high school participate in adoration.
Templemeyer, who is the respect life moderator, said, "Our Respect for
Life group holds a short prayer every Monday at noon in the chapel. We do the
Litany of the Blessed Mother or the Divine Mercy Chaplet. This prayer time is
optional for any high school student who wishes to attend." In May, the
group leads an all-school living rosary.
The grade school students pray the rosary on a monthly basis and some
teachers have opted to take their students to the chapel once a week to pray the
Like many other schools, other forms of prayer coincide with the liturgical
season. For instance, the grade school prays the Stations of the Cross weekly
"During Advent, the elementary did a daily Advent prayer service,"
Prayer is incorporated throughout the day at St. Edmond's. For instance,
prayer starts off each class in the middle and senior high school.
Sister Louise Scieszinski, principal at St. Mary School in Humboldt, said
prayer in various forms is an essential component of the St. Mary Catholic
School program in order that "children learn and develop personal habits of
liturgical, communal and individual prayer. The sacraments are a core part of
the children's experiences."
She mentioned that all students participate in weekly liturgy and classes
take turns planning the liturgy. Student preparation for First Reconciliation
and First Eucharist includes parent meetings and family participation in
An example of a public prayer form is the Children's Daily Prayer in the
"Formal and informal prayer experiences are age-appropriate at each
grade level," said Sister Louise. "These include learning and using
traditional prayers at various times during the school day as well as using
Bible stories and Scripture throughout religion classes and religion activities
for all grades."
Students participate each week in adoration each week during the weekly
parish exposition at St. Mary's Church.
Like most of the schools, students are involved in prayer services for
Advent, Lent and other special times of the year such as Catholic Schools Week.
"Children learn the rosary and pray it in part or entirety at various
times," she noted. "Students will make rosaries during Catholic
Schools Week to send to soldiers on current active duty."
Students learn that reflection on Scripture and Bible stories and personal
prayer are a part of their everyday life. Sister Louise added that spontaneous
prayer is shared in classrooms. Intercessory prayer is prayed in classroom as a
way of asking God's blessings on others and includes school prayer intentions
for each week in the book in the front school hallway.
"Learning and participating in a variety of liturgical, communal and
personal prayer experiences enables students to develop individual habits of
meaningful personal prayer," she explained.