By Anne Marie Amacher
DAVENPORT — Each Thursday during the school year parents gather in the Assumption High School chapel to pray for the Assumption community —including students, families, friends, teachers and staff.
Joanie Vonderhaar, an Assumption parent, began the prayer tradition three years ago. She had been involved in prayer at Lourdes Catholic School in Bettendorf. When her daughter entered Assumption, Vonderhaar wanted to pray there as well. So she and her prayer partner, Laurie Verdi, began the Assumption weekly prayer time.
Throughout the week, members of the Assumption community write prayer requests on paper and drop them into one of several boxes throughout the school. Teacher Marianne Agnoli collects the requests Thursday morning and places them in a box on the altar in the chapel for the people who are praying.
When school is in session, parents are invited to pray from 10-11 a.m., Vonderhaar said. “The main focus of prayer comes from the students’ anonymous prayer requests.”
Often there are between 75-100 requests, which are read aloud and prayed upon. Text messages also are sent to Vonderhaar, Verdi and other organizers: Leslie Bassier, Kelli Coiner and Tracy Ripslinger. Sometimes students even stop by to request a prayer.
On Oct. 24 the school held its annual rosary for life, during which prayer intentions were offered. That meant the box on the altar was empty for the regularly scheduled Thursday prayer session. But six women were in attendance to pray anyway, and they did receive prayers via text messaging and personal requests.
The prayer hour includes recitation of the rosary. Vonderhaar and Verdi decide which of the mysteries will be recited. For Oct. 24 they chose the sorrowful mysteries. “We don’t do that one too often,” Vonderhaar said. “But there is so much sadness here at Assumption (with the death of senior Caleb Neff in July and sophomore Kelsi Youngerman in October).”
The group began the hour of prayer with the sign of the cross. Verdi read a prayer about bullying since that topic has been in the news so much lately. That prayer asks God to protect those who are being bullied at home, school, work or online. It also asks for healing for those who are being bullied and to surround those in need with the security that comes from being in the palm of God’s hands.
Submitted prayers were read aloud, including a prayer of thanksgiving for the seniors who have been mentoring sophomores. “There have been bonds established,” Vonderhaar said. Ripslinger offered a prayer for life on behalf of everyone ranging from babies in the womb to senior citizens. The group prayed for all parents. Another prayer was said for teachers and administrators leading the Assumption community and for their efforts to comfort students dealing with the loss of their two schoolmates.
The group recited the rosary afterwards. In closing, the women offered prayers of gratitude for the newly installed National Honor Society and for all the sports teams as they head into playoff season.
As the prayer session was ending, Principal Bridget Murphy stopped in. The women each placed a hand on her and prayed for her.
Vonderhaar said that after the prayer service she goes home and burns the paper intentions the group has received. When school is not in session, the women still communicate with each other about prayers and, if necessary, get together to pray.