Women pray for priests in Seven Sisters Apostolate Print
Around the Diocese
Written by Elizabeth Durack, For the Catholic Herald   
Thursday, Nov. 21, 2019 -- 12:00 AM

MADISON -- It’s simple: seven women each pray a Eucharistic Holy Hour one day a week for one priest.

I became the “anchoress” of a Seven Sisters Apostolate group last September.

This year, I’ve witnessed a surge in other groups being founded in our diocese. I’m told that now there are 14 — and more are forming.

The first Madison group started in 2015.

Meeting other ‘sisters’

This September, seven ladies from three Madison Seven Sisters groups journeyed to the Shrine of Our Lady of Good Help in Champion, Wis., for the Nativity of Mary.

We also went for harvest-time devotions to Our Lady of the Grapes, and the chance to meet up with a Seven Sisters bus pilgrimage from the St. Paul, Minn., area which included Janette Howe, the movement’s foundress.

“It really started with just myself praying for one priest, not thinking of anything beyond that,” Janette told us.

“Just responding to what I saw in a priest who was very, very generous, very joyful, very giving, in the parish and beyond. My response to that was to offer a holy hour, and nothing beyond that.”

One day in March 2011, she had an inspiration in prayer: “seven sisters.”

Her priest helped shape and launch prayer groups of seven women praying for their priests.

“Even when things bubbled up last summer” as the clergy scandal spewed, Janette said, “it was so disheartening, and yet, our groups started doubling in registration, because people said: we can respond, this is a way we can respond . . . We’re going to stay, and we’re going to fight.”

Since July 2018, the International Seven Sisters Apostolate has been adding one to two new groups every day, and is now present on every continent except Antarctica.

Called to pray for priests

My fellow Madison pilgrim Olivia Smithmier-Bohn described that “During the time between Bishop [Robert C.] Morlino passing away and Bishop [Donald J.] Hying’s installation, people felt strongly called to pray more for our priests and seminarians.

“Some initiatives were started like Living Rosary for seminarians. We also became aware of existing things like Seven Sisters.

“My own participation started with an invitation from my anchoress, prayer, and then a ‘yes.’ It immediately struck a chord in my heart.”

Seven Sisters are devoted to Christ in the Eucharist and in the person of the priest.

Olivia articulated that “Christian women look to Mary the Mother of God in particular as a model for our virtues and manner of life.

“In her life, we see that she was always present in all of the great moments in the life of Our Lord, His glories and His sorrows, and yet she maintained a very hidden presence, and quietly let Him do His work. And this is the nature of the apostolate.”

Leading the apostolate

At the Shrine of Our Lady of Good Help, Janette sized up Olivia and wanted her to become a coordinator for the apostolate in Madison.

After prayer, Olivia agreed and set to work with zeal.

“The experience of most people is that it is not hard to find six women at your parish. It may take some weeks, but if this is something the Holy Spirit wants, He has already planted it in women’s hearts to want to do this and they are ready.”

Seven Sisters groups are founded by women’s own initiative and are not meant to be the priest’s “groupies” or to oblige him in any way.

“The essence of the apostolate is to do your hour of prayer perseveringly and faithfully. Many priests know from the anchoress that they have a group, but they prefer not to know the other intercessors,” Olivia added.

“I have not heard of any response from a priest that hasn’t been completely thrilled and just deeply touched.”

But the Holy Spirit blows where He will.

“The priests whom I’ve heard of really wanting one, no one has started a group for them yet, whereas priests who know nothing about it are the ones having a Seven Sisters group started for them.”

After I hoped aloud that another group or two will start in response to this article, our Seven Sisters coordinator for the Diocese of Madison objected: “One or two! How about 20 or 30!”

We want every priest in the diocese to have one.

For more information, email Olivia Smithmier-Bohn at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it and see the main apostolate website at http://sevensistersapostolate.org