Graduates leave special legacy of Prayer Club Print
Written by Kevin Wondrash, Catholic Herald Staff   
Thursday, May. 15, 2014 -- 12:00 AM
Prayer Club 2014, St. John the Baptist School, Jefferson
St. John the Baptist School in Jefferson eighth-graders helped start the school’s Prayer Club five years ago. From left are: Allie Ganser, Rylee Powell, and Madelyn Kawleski. To view or purchase photos, visit, (Catholic Herald photo/Kevin Wondrash)

JEFFERSON -- As schools near graduation season, it’s often a custom for students moving on to their future endeavors to leave a gift -- be it a plaque, picture, or some

other item in their name as a way to give back to the school.

At St. John the Baptist School in Jefferson, three eighth grade girls are leaving behind more than a simple class gift.

For the past five years, Allie Ganser, Rylee Powell, and Madelyn Kawleski have been the leaders of the school’s Prayer Club, which they helped start along with two other classmates now attending other schools.

What is Prayer Club?

"Prayer Club is where we all come together and celebrate that God has put us in this amazing group of people here at St. John's," said Powell.

Prayer Club members meet every week, during their recess or lunchtime, in the school's library.

"Some weeks we'll pray the Rosary," said Ganser. "Some weeks we'll learn about saints that have a feast day nearby. We do an opening prayer usually and a closing prayer."

The girls started the club when they were in fourth grade and felt inspired to help others grow in their prayer life after they participated in a Rosary-making activity.

They excitedly, and literally, ran with their idea to teacher Carissa Koehler, who was on recess duty that day.

"I said 'that's awesome,' and I gave them the steps they would need to take to make that happen," Koehler recalled.

Although Koehler serves as the faculty advisor for Prayer Club, "it was truly their idea and all their work getting it together," she said.

At a recent meeting of the Prayer Club, after Divine Mercy Sunday, club members prayed part of the Divine Mercy Chaplet and took part in an activity where they colored their own Divine Mercy Chaplet paper Rosaries.

This particular week's Prayer Club was led by Kawleski, who has a devotion to Divine Mercy and St. Faustina, the so-called "Apostle of Divine Mercy."

"Prayer Club is a really cool place where you get to learn about God," said Kawleski. "We pray and devote ourselves to Christ and his love for us. It's very serious, but we have a good time."

Growing for the future

The club has grown over the past few years '' both in students and leadership

"[We] started with around 10 [students]," said Ganser. "Now all the tables are filling up usually," amounting to more than two dozen students.

"The girls have taken over more leadership in the last three years -- planning, organizing, and even managing the weekly running of the club," said Koehler. "We have seen more younger students come. I think their leadership in it is what has grown the most."

With the three Prayer Club leaders graduating soon, new leaders will take their place.

After a year of "job shadowing," three third-graders and one fifth-grader are ready to take over the tradition Ganser, Powell, and Kawleski are leaving behind.

As Koehler put it, the three girls' "passion for their faith" will be missed "terribly," but the new leaders are excited for their turn to run Prayer Club.

"The organizational and day-to-day stuff will come. They'll learn as they go and they'll develop just like the other girls did, but just that passion and that fire -- they've got it, so we'll be fine," said Koehler.

Will miss the club

Just as the school will miss them, the girls will miss Prayer Club.

"I wish I could take this with me to high school, because it is fun to lead a club like this, but I want to also leave it to the leaders we have chosen and I think they'll run far with this," said Powell.

"It's all pretty much been a fun and kind of wild time, because we've all been through our ups and downs in Prayer Club, but overall I think it's all been good," said Kawleski. "I've had a fun time doing the whole thing especially being with my friends."

"I just love that it was student-developed and totally student run," said Koehler. "It was all their doing and all their love and devotion behind it, which I think is inspiring. They're just able to be true witnesses to their faith through this and just great role models for the rest of the school."


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