A house full of animated children of varying ages and their parents socialize briefly until it’s time to begin praying the rosary. Then, even the very little ones are quiet—mostly—and follow along; their voices filling the living room. It’s a Monday evening with the World Apostolate of Fatima prayer group composed of eight families from Bismarck and Mandan. They have met every Monday for the last ten years.
“My kids love coming,” said Dorothy Storick, member of St. Anne’s parish in Bismarck.
“We were late tonight because of other activities but one of the kids asked me, ‘We still get to go to prayer group, right?’”
Her husband Tom explained that when they heard about it eight years ago, they had wanted to make praying the rosary a bigger part of their family life. “It’s nice to go somewhere with our family (seven children) and pray together,” he said. “If some of us can’t make it, the rest of us still try to go.”
Families have come and gone through the years, but Kris and Becca Lengenfelder of Cathedral of the Holy Spirit (Bismarck) and Deacon Doug and Janet Helbing of Christ the King (Mandan) have been with the group since it began. Janet passed away three years ago.
“Janet was the one who got everything started,” Doug said. “We lived in Beulah and belonged to a prayer cell there for nine years. When we moved to Mandan in 2001, we really missed it. Janet became the president of the North Dakota chapter of the Blue Army (later renamed the World Apostolate of Fatima) and began a prayer cell among friends and acquaintances.” The groups are called “cells” because the idea is for them to grow and divide just like cells in the human body do.
The World Apostolate of Fatima was established to spread the message of Our Lady at Fatima, Portugal who appeared on the thirteenth day of each month from May to October in 1917 to three little shepherd children. It is said that the first Fatima prayer cell began with Our Lady and the three children since they always prayed together.
On the first Monday of every month at 7 p.m., the Bismarck/Mandan prayer cell meets at Christ the King for around 40 minutes of prayer and adoration led by Deacon Doug in front of the exposed Blessed Sacrament. It is open to everyone, so other families often join in. It is family-friendly, so squirmy little ones are not a problem. After the rosary, Deacon Doug invites the children to come near the altar and kneel before the Blessed Sacrament.
Shawn and Kim Heilman, who have been members of the group for four years, are helping the cell do what it was intended to do: divide and grow. They moved from Bismarck to Menoken this summer with their five young children. Initially, Kim said they planned to drive in on Monday evenings. “I knew we could not quit, it’s been such a blessing to our family to pray with other families who take the rosary seriously,” she said. Within a very short time, the Heilmans learned of five other families who wanted to become a part of a prayer cell. So beginning in October, they will start a new cell.
By joining a cell with the World Apostolate of Fatima, people pledge to try and pray the rosary daily, to offer up everyday sacrifices, to wear the Brown scapular, and to practice the “First Five Saturday” devotion. A prayer cell can even be as small as two—“For where two or three have gathered together in my name, I am there in their midst" (Mt. 18:20).
To learn more about joining or staring a prayer cell, contact Shirlein Vetter, World Apostolate of Fatima Bismarck Chapter president, at 391-1172 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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