August 08, 2012
Since the Mary MacKillop website went live in March 2010, more than 23,000 prayers, petitions and reflections have been posted online at Mary’s tomb by those who can only visit Mount Street North Sydney virtually or, who having returned home from a visit there, continue to want to pray at Mary’s burial place.
The prayers reflect the great variety of personal challenges that people face in their daily lives – sickness, unemployment, exams, anxiety, loneliness, serious illness, homelessness, purchasing a home, child birth, the desire for a child or a friend or a life partner… and even the hope of Olympic success.
To read these prayers is to encounter the honesty, hopes and heartaches of the petitioners. “ It makes me humble and proud,” said Niesha Allport rsj, Co-ordinator of Volunteers at Mount Street,” that I belong to a group that makes this opportunity available to people.”
Pastoral care of those who visit Mary MacKillop Place,Mount Street North Sydney is a particular ministry of the Sisters of St Joseph. “Being with, listening to and supporting people who come to the chapel, either in person or via email or the internet, is a work of a number of our Sisters and Josephite Associates who are volunteers.”
Visitors to the Prayer Space on the Mary MacKillop website are encouraged to use only their initials or their first name when posting a prayer online, but there is the option to choose to be contacted by a member of the Pastoral Care Team at Mount Street. “ We do follow up to see how those people are," said Sr Niesha. "We find out if they are needing continual support and we keep people in our prayers.”
“ We also have a number of Sisters who, in their preparation for their evening prayer choose to go to the Mary MacKillop website, read the latest prayers and bring those intentions to their community prayer. This is not something they have been asked to do. They recognise the needs of people and have taken on this ministry of prayer.”
Sr Niesha highlights two aspects of the prayer ministry as being particularly significant for her. “It is the faith people have that Mary MacKillop will listen and be there with and for them. She is still present. It is also important that we reassure people and educate them to know that prayer is a vital part of life. There are many ways of praying. The online opportunity is just one way.”
In a recent article "Praying in the Digital Age", in America online magazine, Mary Charles Mayer rsm, Director of the Office of Consecrated Life for the Archdiocese of St. Louis, spoke of the significance of having places where people can post prayer requests online.
“The Web provides a level of anonymity for people, a large viewing audience that might also pray for their needs and a level of impersonal contact where people are safe in communicating their vulnerability or that of another person,” she said.
Having interviewed a number of people engaged in the ministry of prayer online, Sr Mary Charles concluded, ' “Where two or three are gathered…” takes on new meaning when hundreds or thousands of people see your prayer request and offer their own prayer on your behalf. Perhaps posting prayers on Web sites and Facebook allows people who feel that no one is praying for or with them to be heard." '
On the Feast Day of Mary MacKillop, if you can’t be at Mount Street, join us in prayer by posting yours online, or join us online in praying for the intentions of so many who would like us to pray with them.