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Alumni Association takes online prayer requests

Gene Noone | Friday, November 9, 2007

More than 3,500 members of the extended Notre Dame community have prayed at the Grotto in the past 10 months without ever stepping foot on campus. They’ve made these visits through online prayer requests courtesy of pray.nd.edu.

Kathleen Sullivan, the senior director of Service and Spirituality for the Alumni Association, said the Web site began as an Alumni Association initiative to connect graduates with one of the school’s most spiritual traditions – praying at the Grotto.

“We asked ourselves how is it that we could bring the Grotto to the people,” Sullivan said. “We decided to be the feet for the people and go to the Grotto for them.”

The Web site began through Sullivan’s department in the Alumni Association, the recently created Service and Spirituality division.

“We wanted to think of new ways to spread spirituality to alumni across the world,” she said.

Under the leadership of Sullivan, pray.nd.edu launched last February. Since then, the site has received more than 50,000 hits.

The Web site is updated every weekday with a new prayer, gospel reading and video titled “Sacred Spaces of Notre Dame,” which highlights a particular place of worship on campus.

Perhaps the most innovative section of the Web site is the Grotto request page, where people can send requests to have their prayers said at the Grotto.

On Thursdays, a representative from the Alumni Association takes the electronic prayer requests to the Grotto and prays. Marian Appleton, an administrative assistant for the Alumni Association, often goes to the Grotto on behalf of those who submit requests.

“When we visit the Grotto every Thursday, we pray and relight the Alumni Association’s Green Candle, which was made specifically for the prayer requests,” Appleton said. “We also accept requests to light a separate candle for those who ask.”

The service is available to any alumni, family or friends of the University free of charge. Those who submit prayers have the option of staying anonymous. But if they provide a name and e-mail address, the Alumni Association will reply to their request with a note confirming their visit.

“We’ve gotten a lot of positive feedback from people who feel as if they’re back at the Grotto because they know we’re down there for them,” Sullivan said.

“Most often people will ask us to pray for their family and friends,” she added. “There are a lot of requests concerning health issues, jobs, kids, people nearing death and people facing addiction. Having someone go to the Grotto for them seems to help them with these problems in a tangible way.”

The Web site also accepts requests for Masses given by Holy Cross priests for those who are deceased or for special intentions. The requested Mass stipend is $10, and the Mass takes place within three months of the request.

Although the Web site is fairly new, Sullivan said, she’s “not really surprised” by its popularity. “People who are at Notre Dame or who used to be here are so connected to their faith,” she said.

Sullivan said the Web site will be redesigned in December to add a more extensive archive of prayers and videos, an RSS feed and the capability to access the site by cell phone.

For more information, visit pray.nd.edu