Students pray for intentions - Catholic Courier

Students pray for intentions

Most Catholic-school students start each school day with prayer, and the students at St. Francis-St. Stephen School in Geneva are no exception.

Each morning these students first pray with their classmates and then with the rest of the school as a whole. They pray for themselves, their families, friends and pets, but they also pray for people they’ve never even met, said Elaine Morrow, principal. School officials began soliciting prayer requests and special intentions from the community at the beginning of the 2006-07 school year, she said.

“We have placed what we call prayer coupons in our parish bulletin and in the Finger Lakes Times,” she said.

Each prayer coupon encourages people to mail or e-mail their prayer requests to the schoolchildren, who will then include those requests in their daily prayers. Morrow and third-grade teacher Sandy Schading have already received more than 30 prayer requests, and Morrow keeps an updated list of the intentions in the main office.

“We pray as a whole school,” said Schading, who brought the prayer-coupon idea to Morrow last fall.

Each teacher at St. Francis-St. Stephen begins morning prayers with his or her class at about 8:05 a.m., Morrow said. At about 8:15, Morrow leads a schoolwide prayer over the public-address system.

Morrow usually chooses supplications from a book of children’s prayers. Some days the prayer mentions a specific saint or feast day, and other days it focuses on exams or sick pets, she said. She will then tell the children how many intentions they are praying for that day, and she’ll sometimes highlight one or two individual intentions.

“I think God knows what’s on that list, but at least that way there’s one to focus on for the day,” she said.

Most people indicate on their prayer coupons whether they want their intentions to remain private, and if people don’t indicate their preference, Morrow assumes they want to remain anonymous, she said.

The letters and e-mails Schading has received with prayer coupons have been very moving, she added.

“When you read some of the stories, the need is so great,” she said.

The idea for the prayer-coupon project first began to take shape when one of Schading’s friends told her about a Baptist minister in another city who would stand on the street corners, stop passersby and ask them if he could pray for them.

“He would ask for nothing in return. I liked that idea,” Schading said. “It’s just an idea that this guy had, and he took it to the streets and I said, ‘I’ll take it to the papers.'”

An anonymous donor initially gave Schading and Morrow enough money so the prayer coupons could be placed a few times in the Finger Lakes Times as advertisements, and additional donors have allowed the advertisements to keep running. Every few weeks the school also runs the coupons in the Roman Catholic Community of Geneva’s bulletins.

Several people have shown their gratitude for what the school is doing by including small donations with their prayer requests, Schading added.

“We’ve had one envelope come back with a dollar in it, as a thank you. We’ve had one come back with a lottery ticket in it, and we won $5,” she said.

However, a monetary donation is not required or expected in exchange for the students’ prayers, Schading said.

“It’s more about ‘what can we do for you?'” she said. “It’s what we should be doing. We should be doing things for others.”

“We don’t ask for anything in return. All we ask is that people feel free to send (requests) to us. We just simply provide a ministry for the people of the parish,” Morrow added.

Although many of the people who’ve sent in prayer requests thus far have been parishioners, anyone in the community is welcome to send in a prayer coupon, Morrow said, noting that several of the people who returned prayer coupons have been non-Catholics.

The prayer-coupon program seems to be having a positive impact on the community, and many people have told Morrow what a beautiful program it is, she said. Morrow credits the students as the main reason for the program’s popularity.

“I think part of it is knowing how truly sincere children’s prayers are,” Morrow said. “The kids find great joy when we say that we’re removing a special intention because the prayers were answered.”

The children are especially excited when they learn their prayers were answered in the way they’d hoped, which was the case when they learned a young adult they’d been praying for had successfully found a job in the art industry. Every once in awhile, Morrow has to tell them that while their prayers were heard and answered, the outcome was somewhat different than what they’d hoped for. No matter what the outcome, the students are glad to be able to help, she said.

“The kids are thrilled when they learn their prayers are having an affect,” she said.

EDITOR’S NOTE: If you would like the children of St. Francis-St. Stephen School to pray for your special intentions, please send your request to the school, 17 Elmwood Ave., Geneva, NY 14456. Prayer requests also may be e-mailed to

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