BY KRISTI FISH | MIRROR REPORTER — The parishioners at St. Joseph’s Catholic Parish in Maumee have been “praying it forward” for the past several weeks.
As part of their Lenten mission, parishioners were encouraged to choose a paper cross hung on the wall in the family life center. On the nearly 400 crosses were the first names of local people and a prayer request.
The idea came about through Fr. Eric Schild, Abbie Spillis – the director of engagement and marketing at St. Joseph’s – and Allison Perz, the executive director of The Mareda Center.
“I wanted to talk to Father Eric and pick his brain a bit. How do we help people understand that everyone is so generous at Christmastime, but the need continues all year-round?” Perz said.
Schild said he wanted to tie in a way his church could help during the Easter season, to share the spirit of giving, so Perz and Spillis met up to discuss the possibilities.
“I’m a big fan of paying it forward, and then talking with Allison, the idea of Pray It Forward came about,” Spillis said. “She also works with other executive directors – the YWCA, Bethany House, Connecting Kids to Meals – and then we included our St. Joe’s Maumee school staff.”
The names on the crosses came from those organizations as well as The Mareda Center. The crosses featured families and workers from these organizations that could use prayers.
“When you look collectively at what people were asking for, it’s just a reminder that we are all more similar than we are different, and that the need continues, both from a prayer perspective and from the almsgiving,” Perz said. “There are so many people in such high need in our community.”
At St. Joseph’s, there are around 2,400 parishioners, according to Spillis, but she was still surprised when the hundreds of crosses disappeared so quickly from the walls. She had to put more up, so she highlighted the needs of committee members and other staff at the school and parish.
“We had our parishioners take a cross home and they were praying for that person all through Lent,” Spillis said. “If they felt the need to donate or give alms, they brought the cross back so we could have them all blessed.”
During the May 1 Sunday Mass, the alms were blessed by Schild before they were handed off to the executive directors and presidents of the nonprofits.
“We look forward to Pray It Forward being a yearly mission between us,” Schild said.
Spillis said there are several other organizations the church would like to include next year in the Lenten mission. By fulfilling prayer requests and giving alms, the parishioners are able to extend the season of giving for organizations that need it.
“We hope this is an annual thing, just like the angel trees,” Perz said. “I would hope that this would kind of grow legs and multiply and other parishes would embrace it, and it really would become an initiative for the entire community.”
Spillis said she hopes that those who are on the receiving end of the campaign will one day be able to pay it forward for someone else, too.
“Everybody always needs prayer, but I think that gesture to donate, if you feel called to it, goes such a long way,” Spillis said. “We hope that our little Lenten mission could pass on to somebody else. People just need to be uplifted.”