"Please pray my husband and I stay together."
"Please pray for a successful knee surgery."
"Please pray that I may be restored back to the way I was."
"Please pray for my soul."
The prayers come 24 hours a day from all over the world to the Franciscan Sisters of Perpetual Adoration. While the stories behind the emailed prayers are different, the sentiment is always the same: Please pray.
The sisters have been praying continuously - all day, every day in shifts - since Aug. 1, 1878. Since 2003, many of the prayer requests have come through their website.
Michelle Frazier's job is to answer the prayers - literally. Frazier is the prayer minister and a Franciscan Sisters of Perpetual Adoration associate who is in the process of becoming a nun. She oversees the prayer requests, making sure they get to the sisters. "Mechanically, it's not a difficult job," Frazier said. "Spiritually and emotionally, it can be difficult. That's OK, it's part of the ministry."
Mondays are usually the busiest because the emails stack up over the weekend. Just recently, she's received emails from New Zealand, Zimbabwe, Poland, India and Northern Ireland as well as from all across the United States from people of all faiths. "I think people just want to be prayed for," Frazier said. "It gives them a sense of hope."
The prayers for children are the hardest to read. Recently, Frazier received a request to pray for a 10-year-old girl with brain cancer. "She's a little angel," the email said. "Just recently her tumor near her brain stem has grown, and she has been given less than a year."
Fittingly, Frazier starts her day by praying in the St. Francis Chapel. Some of the emails are actual prayers to God. "I'm a third party in someone's prayer," Frazier said. "Sometimes I really feel like I'm intruding. It's pretty personal stuff."
The requests are kept confidential. Each one gets a reply. Frazier has standard responses, but sometimes she adds a personal note.
Sister Ronalda Hophan oversaw the prayers from 2003-07, when the nuns first began accepting requests over the Internet. Immediately, the emailed requests came in from all over the world. "It's fantastic," Hophan said. "It just shows the need for prayer." Hophan is glad the technology helps them reach people in their hour of need, whenever that may be. "You'd like to hug them all, but you can't," Hophan said. "You just want to hold them."
Prayer requests are still taken by phone and mail, and they can be dropped off at the Chapel. Sometimes Frazier gets thank yous or updates on how people are doing. Most of the time, she just has to have faith. "We are in our way affecting change, whether great or small," Frazier said.
You may mail or phone them or drop off your request in person here:
Franciscan Sisters of Perpetual Adoration
912 Market St.
La Crosse, WI 54601-4782