Celebrating 175 years of the Pope's Worldwide Prayer Network

Photo credit: Pope’s Worldwide Prayer Network
Photo credit: Pope’s Worldwide Prayer Network

The Pope's Worldwide Prayer Network, with the Eucharistic Youth Movement (EYM), dressed up on June 28th and 29th to commemorate a special occasion: the celebration of 175 years since its foundation (on December 3rd, 2019) and of 10 years since the beginning of its recreation process.

The anniversary was celebrated in Vatican City with an International Meeting attended by some 52 delegations of the Prayer Network from the five continents, representing more than 5,000 people. Pope Francis also made an act of presence, on the first day, to accompany the faithful on this special event and to pray with them for the challenges of humanity and the mission of the Church, which he entrusts each month to his Prayer Network.

The inauguration on June 28th was chosen on the occasion of the Solemnity of the Heart of Jesus, the annual feast of the Pope's Worldwide Prayer Network. The organizers invited each national team to accompany the celebration from their own countries during these days, or to come to Rome to unite in prayer and joy with all the faithful. Delegations from Europe, America, Africa, South Asia and Asia-Oceania were present. Among them, there were also Fr David Stewart SJ, Fr Donal Neary SJ of the Irish national office and over 40 supporters of the Prayer Network from Britain and Ireland.

The International Encounter opened the doors of the Paul VI Hall at 8 am. Fr Frédéric Fornos SJ gave the welcome speech, followed by an institutional video of the Prayer Network, in which representatives from around the world reaffirmed their commitment to mobilizing the world's Catholics through prayer and action, and to respond to the challenges of humanity and the mission of the Church. Then, the Eucharistic Youth Movement (EYM) was introduced: this international movement of Christian formation for children and young people, present in many parishes, actively participates in the dynamic of prayer and service that characterizes the whole Prayer Network, helping everybody to grow in friendship with Jesus. After bringing forth projects such as "The Pope's Video" and "Click To Pray", which are a part of this recreation process, a new initiative was introduced in order to consolidate the educational itinerary of the Pope’s Prayer Network: “The Way of the Heart”, with its own website and mobile app.

Meeting of national directors and coordinators. Photo credit:Pope's Worldwide Prayer Network

At about 12, with the presence of Fr Arturo Sosa SJ, Superior General of the Society of Jesus, Pope Francis arrived. Representatives of 6 delegations gave their testimony to the Holy Father about the joy and profound experience they lived in praying for his intentions and discovering The Way of the Heart. The Pope, after listening to each one of them and greeting them personally, addressed all those present expressing his gratitude its work and reaffirmed his Prayer Network in “the foundation of its mission: the compassion for the world.” In his speech, he reminded everyone that “the heart of the Church’s mission is prayer.” He also turned his gaze towards the Society of Jesus, acknowledging its commitment after so many years, and he specially thanked Fr Frédéric Fornos SJ, for his “dedication and creativity.” At this point, the Holy Father created an imposing atmosphere of silence and recollection in the Paul VI Hall, after which he took the opportunity to pray, with all the guests, the prayer of the 175 years for his intentions and the mission of the Church.

This special audience was followed by the Eucharist in the Archbasilica of St John. The Mass was presided over by Fr Arturo Sosa SJ and concelebrated by the continental coordinators of the Prayer Network. In his homily, Fr Frédéric Fornos SJ remarked how the Way of the Heart is a school of mercy that transforms us to enter into a mission of compassion for the world. "This is how our mission is summed up," observed the International Director. "To have the gaze and gestures of Jesus towards others, for the world, offering our life. And so, with our prayer (which is already a way of loving), we can lead men and women, and the challenges of our time, to the Heart of Christ, a mission of compassion for the world.”

Eucharistic Youth Movement  Meeting. Photo credit: Pope's Worldwide Prayer Network

The second day brought together, in a historic meeting, the directors and national coordinators of the Pope's Worldwide Prayer Network and its youth branch (EYM). Everybody exchanged their own experiences, challenges and work methodologies. Towards the end of the meeting, Fr Arturo Sosa SJ joined in, expressing his gratitude to all for this recreation process that the former Superior General, Fr Adolfo Nicolás SJ, had launched in 2009. He also reaffirmed the support that the Society of Jesus offers to this pontifical work, stressing its open nature in the mission of compassion for the world.

The youth branch of the Pope's Worldwide Prayer Network closed the two-days commemoration. The EYM emerged as a branch of the Apostleship of Prayer in 1915 and adopted its present name in 1962.

In the afternoon, delegations from many countries delivered special presentations in a very joyful atmosphere. The exchange of the “United in Your love” bracelets was a very special moment, and served as a way of integration, of sharing and of remembering all those who could not come.

As a summary of the event, Fr Frédéric Fornos SJ emphasizes that beyond the founding of the Apostleship of Prayer in 1844 —in his words, "an event in our history"—, what was celebrated during these two days was the present of the Pope's Worldwide Prayer Network, today a pontifical work, after 175 years and after 10 years since its re-founding. "Our birthday leads us to thank the Lord for His faithfulness, to look at the way He acted today as he did yesterday, and to open ourselves even more to His mission of compassion for the world."

Reflect on the monthly Pope's prayer intentions