By Anne Marie Amacher
The Catholic Messenger
DAVENPORT — Mark Bailey’s woodworking talents and his family’s embrace of the Catholic faith inspired him to build an outdoor prayer center near McAnthony Window for the hungry at St. Anthony Parish.
The prayer center, which resembles a Little Free Library, began as a response to a modest request from John Cooper, the parish’s pastoral associate and business manager, for a prayer box for McAnthony Window guests and others.
Bailey, who entered the Catholic Church this year at St. Anthony Parish, accepted Cooper’s request to make the prayer box to hold prayer petitions. Bailey’s wife Jody and their son Sam entered the Catholic Church the previous year. “My wife and I talked about what we wanted to do” regarding the prayer box request, Bailey said. They envisioned a center where people could pick up small books and other religious items in addition to submitting prayer requests.
The parish’s pastor at that time was Father Apo Mpanda, who inspired the family, as did Cooper. On July 1, Father Mpanda began his new assignment as pastor of Our Lady of the River Parish in LeClaire and Church of the Visitation in Camanche.
“Mark came to me with a mockup of an elaborate idea to take the concept of a secretary’s desk and call it the Father Apo Mpanda Prayer Center. He even used a quote from Father Apo from the Mass when he announced to the congregation that he was leaving,” Cooper said.
“The more time I spent on this, the bigger it became,” Mark said. He estimated 300 to 400 hours went into the project. The prayer center includes an area to write and submit prayer requests. Rosaries, prayer cards, journals and other items are inside the secretary desk. When the desk front is up, a quote of Father Mpanda appears. So does the prayer center name. The Our Father and Hail Mary prayers appear on the center’s sides. A house of wood and Plexiglas protects the center from the elements.
After his wife and son entered the Catholic Church in 2019, Mark Bailey joined his wife in helping out at the parish. He said he felt welcomed by Father Mpanda and Cooper and decided to participate in the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults. During his faith formation and discernment process, Cooper learned that Bailey enjoyed woodworking and asked him to make a cross to display outdoors by McAnthony Window. Cooper followed up with a request for a table that could be used during the outdoor Easter Vigil fire, a ritual that did not happen this year because of the coronavirus pandemic. “Hopefully we can use it next year,” Bailey said.
The day before Father Mpanda left for his new assignment, St. Anthony Parish hosted a drive-by farewell for him. Bailey presented the prayer box in the pastor’s honor.
“God works in mysterious ways. I am very pleased with the prayer center. I hope the patrons enjoy it,” Bailey said. Jody Bailey hopes the new center “reaches out and touches just one person to help put them on a journey to where they want to be. This has been a labor of love.”
“One of our toughest patrons, who on most days comes across as mad at the world, looked at me and said with a smile, ‘So you’ve got a prayer center now? Are the patrons using it or at least checking it out?’” Cooper said. “We’ve had patrons who have asked for Bibles, rosaries, etc… in the past. One patron asked me last week, ‘Can I have a Bible to read?’ It was great to just walk him over to the prayer center and let him pick one out,” Cooper added.