Jenny Snarski
Catholic Herald staff

“Each of us have been called by our baptism to be the hands of Jesus,” Mary Joan Sutton reminded as part of an invitation to a prayer ministry training seminar on March 20 at Our Lady of Sorrows in Ladysmith.

“In our journey to holiness we are to step forward to answer that call,” Sutton continued, “And how wonderful to know that, through each of us, the power of the Holy Spirit can heal the mind, body and soul of our brothers and sisters.”

Sutton chairs the Diocese of Superior Charismatic Renewal Service Team with Fr. Dean Buttrick as the diocesan liaison.

The prayer ministry training is a follow-up to a Sept. 26 gathering, also in Ladysmith, titled “Power & Purpose: Encountering the Holy Spirit.” Attendance at the September event is not required for the March 20 training.

The training begins with the optional Sacrament of Reconciliation at 9 a.m., followed by registration at 9:30 a.m. Worship is 10 a.m., and a training video begins at 10:15 a.m. Attendees may bring their own lunches; prayer and commissioning continue until 2 p.m.

Sutton said a hunger for further training has been expressed by those involved with prayer groups and others interested in learning, but she also notes there is often a misunderstanding of the intercessory prayer that persons involved with the Charismatic Renewal engage in.

In order to de-mystify it, Sutton defined prayer ministry as, “The ability to be an intercessor between God and a certain person, allowing that person – through prayer – to understand the total love that God has for them.” She added, “The ability to intercede for healing in their family – healing of mind, body or soul – and bringing comfort to that person.”

She acknowledged the difference between privately praying for someone and their intentions, and the action of praying over someone in their need, collectively and in the moment.

After the pandemic restricted their ability to gather in person, the River Falls prayer group Sutton has attended for five years went from meeting monthly to a weekly conference call.

The call might last an hour-and-a-half, during which they read Scripture, quietly reflect on it and anyone who wishes can share how they were inspired. Then they invite intentions to be shared.

Sutton shared four or five specific situations and persons whose intentions have been brought to the group, and the progression of God’s providence seen.

“Because we are collectively praying for these people, we are seeing miracles,” she said, and noted they are creating a sense of community at the same time. “We’re helping each other in moments of crisis” and continuing prayerful conversations throughout the week by email.

“Each one of the group is now being able to give a spontaneous prayer in response to the shared messages. That’s growth,” Sutton said.

In response to how “Protestant” it might seem to pray in this way, whereas Catholics are more comfortable with private and form prayers like the rosary, Sutton affirmed, “I see great value in the rosary. But the beginning of our church was community. And there is a power in community coming together and offering prayer.”

Sutton is aware that experiencing prayer of this sort can be something hard to understand until one experiences it first-hand. At the same time, she recognizes that being on the receiving end of prayers is one thing and being in the role of intercessor can be more intimidating.

We have to set aside concerns about our worthiness, she said, commenting on the need to remember that the answers to prayer depend on God – his power and his spirit – not on those interceding.

“I am not worthy,” she continued, “But Jesus has called me to be his hands and feet, and by dying on the cross he has opened up heaven’s resources to me.

“He is forgiving and loving and he allows me to intercede for others who are in pain.”

Sutton added that prayer ministry and being a prayerful person are intimately connected. Dedicated times of prayer, with Scripture or the rosary, interceding for someone’s need and calling God to mind throughout the day are all “part of the journey of becoming exactly who God wants us to be – in relationship with him.”

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