On the afternoon of April 26, Bishop Richard J. Malone received a special gift, a prayer book containing a compilation of prayers from the St. John the Baptist Parish community in Kenmore, from three of its parishioners. The bishop met with Ray Metzger, treasurer of the parish's Holy Name Society; Mary Porter, who originally came up with the idea for the book from her sister, a former Sister of St. Mary of Namur, and Porter's grandson, Ethan Franz, currently a fourth-grade student at St. John the Baptist School.
The book, "An Invitation to Prayer," was the fruit of efforts of a 13-volunteer team including Metzger and Porter. It contains a selection of prayers members of the faith community submitted because they felt the passages were of special importance to them, and could be used by others in their own lives. The volunteer team raised money to produce the texts, which they distributed to the community free of charge.
As he presented the book to Bishop Malone, Ethan pointed out the prayer that he submitted, as well as those of his classmates. He also showed Bishop Malone the "Prayer of Abandonment," by Charles de Foucauld, on page 10, a personal favorite prayer of the bishop the team included as a dedication to him.
"It's beautifully produced. It's a lovely piece of work," the bishop said as he flipped through the pages. The goal of the book was to compile original prayers, and Porter noted how finding a team willing to raise the money for the effort was easy since many of them grew up together. Porter had hoped to be able to give a copy of the book to Bishop Malone at his office in person for a specific reason. Her sister had been involved in the creation of a similar prayer book that she distributed to those closest to her and others.
"My sister gave it to all of the family for Christmas," Porter said of the book that inspired the St. John the Baptist creation. "And I thought, 'Well, if they can do that, we can do this.' The reason I wanted to come along, and not just give it to you at the Mass, was so you understood that it takes not just the youth. My sister said, 'Mary, if you're doing this, do it right. Do a better job. We didn't do anything on the Rosary, and we didn't do anything on the youth.'" She noted this was not the case here. "If you count the number of prayers in the book, and you count the number from the youth, the youth have got us topped."
According to Metzger, the committee ultimately ended up including 14 people, including the original 13 members and Catherine Ward, another St. John's parishioner and a teacher at St. Joseph's Collegiate Institute in Kenmore. "We put this to bed without a dime coming out of the parish treasury," Metzger said. "We fundraised the whole thing from the parishioners, which made Father Michael (Parker) very happy."
In the book's introduction, Father Parker, pastor of St. John the Baptist Parish, wrote, "We all share a dependency on God and recognize God's presence in our lives. My hope and prayer is that this book, 'An Invitation to Prayer,' will inspire our union with our brothers and sisters in their relationship with God and encourage us in our prayer to being with and in union with God through our own prayer."
The volunteer team responsible for production included Dorothy Brigante, Virginia Carl, Joan LaDuca, Catherine Laski, John and Judy McFadden, Sharon Murphy, Mary Louise and Walter Sharrow, Kate Washington and Judy Wilkie, as well as Metzger and Porter. The back of the book includes acknowledgement of other people who made it happen, as well as blank pages for individuals to add their own prayers.
"You know what I love in here? This part in the back, 'Prayers of My Own.' That's really an invitation to prayer," Bishop Malone remarked, noting that this tied in well with the book's title.
Metzger said if other parishes would be interested in producing a parish prayer book of their own, then they should contact Porter, who has put together a checklist of how the St. John's community was able to do this. "My sister said to me, 'Mary, we are going to write a book, we have to write a book, because people are starting to ask me for my parish.' I've already had two parishes ask me for copies."
For more information about "An Invitation to Prayer" or how to create a parish prayer book, contact Mary Porter at 941-224-4599.