Mother’s prayer event unites denominations

Debra Geels of St. Boniface Church and Barbie Johnson of City Christian Fellowship Church lead local mothers in prayer at the Worldwide Mom's Day of Prayer Jan. 19 at St. Boniface Church.
Debra Geels of St. Boniface Church and Barbie Johnson of City Christian Fellowship Church lead local mothers in prayer at the Worldwide Mom's Day of Prayer Jan. 19 at St. Boniface Church.

FORT SMITH — The annual Worldwide Mom’s Day of Prayer has been celebrated on the third Saturday in January for 11 years, but this year they had a first. St. Boniface Church in Fort Smith became the first Catholic church in the world to host a Mom’s Day of Prayer service.
The event was founded in Fort Smith in 1997 by Eastside Baptist Church member Kathy Coleman. Coleman, who had been active in establishing Moms in Touch prayer groups for Fort Smith schools, had a vision that “prayer can change lives, and women can unite under God’s direction and not under labels of denominations.” The movement spread across the United States and, four years ago, throughout the world.
“I knew from the beginning that Mom’s Day of Prayer would be in a Catholic church 11 years ago. God laid it on my heart,” Coleman said. “God got a hold of Debra’s (Geels) prayer group and laid it on their hearts too.”
Geels brought the idea of hosting the 2008 Mom’s Day of Prayer in Fort Smith to her weekly ladies prayer group at St. Boniface.
“I had never been to a Mom’s Day of Prayer but my cousin, Melinda Hawkins, is involved with this movement and told me they didn’t have a host church in Fort Smith for 2008. Our prayer group decided to host it after receiving Father Jon’s (McDougal) permission.”
They decided to become the 51st denomination to host a Mom’s Day of Prayer Jan. 19, Geels said, because “we realized we needed to put down those barriers and come together as moms because we all want the same things for our children.”
About 200 women visited the church throughout the day.
St. Boniface had help from other churches in Fort Smith, both Catholic and non-Catholic. Lynn Walker, Traci Calderera and Terry Upchurch from Immaculate Conception Church co-led hours of prayer. The Apostles of Divine Mercy from Sacred Heart of Mary Church in Barling led the Chaplet of the Divine Mercy at 3 p.m. They were joined by prayer leaders from St. Boniface Church, Living Way Four Square Church, First Baptist Church, Eastside Baptist Church, Fairview Baptist Church, City Christian Fellowship Church and St. James Baptist Church.
After Father McDougal, St. Boniface pastor, gave an opening blessing at 8 a.m., two prayer leaders led prayer from comfortable chairs in front of the altar during each hour. As visitors from the community came to pray, the prayer leaders read a list of “burdens,” general petitions — for the brokenhearted, for single moms, for teens to overcome temptation, for an end to abortion and many more. Following the petitions, comforting Bible verses were read from the Gospels, the letters of Paul, Acts, Samuel 1, Psalms and Proverbs. A worship song based on 1 Samuel 1:27-28, composed and recorded by Brenda Yelvington of Fort Smith, ended each hour of public prayer and private meditation.
Visitors put individual prayer requests into a prayer bowl that had been brought back from Africa by a missionary who had introduced Mom’s Day of Prayer there while on mission. Individual prayer requests were prayed for during the closing services.
The cry room was converted into a private prayer room, where visitors could pray individually or with a prayer leader.
“I wasn’t even prepared for the blessings today, people pouring out their hearts,” Geels said. “One of our prayer leaders, Bernie Steininger, who is on our Social Justice Committee, was able to talk to someone in desperate need and drive her to a place where she could receive help.”
For many non-Catholic visitors, coming to St. Boniface Church for Mom’s Day of Prayer was their first encounter with Catholicism. Most echoed the words of Ellen Patridge, a member of First Baptist Church, who had attended Mom’s Day of Prayer for the past four years.
“It’s absolutely beautiful and so worshipful. I really felt the presence of the Lord here,” she said.

Maryanne Meyerriecks

Maryanne Meyerriecks joined Arkansas Catholic in 2006 as the River Valley correspondent. She is a member of Christ the King Church in Fort Smith, a Benedictine oblate and volunteer at St. Scholastica Monastery.

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