Marian Shrine Institutes ‘Shepherd Project’ to Pray for Each Individual US Bishop
The effort was initiated by the National Shrine of Our Lady of Good Help in Champion, Wisconsin.
“Our shepherds need to be prayed for; I firmly believe they are under attack.”
So said Barbara Renard, who is certain the new “The Shepherd Project” started May 1 by the National Shrine of Our Lady of Good Help in Champion, Wisconsin, is an excellent way to support the bishops of the United States.
Violeta Derocher is of the same mind. She said our bishops, who descend from the apostles, “are anointed, and they have a very big responsibility. And right now, they are under attack.”
Father of Mercy John Broussard, the rector of the National Shrine of Our Lady of Good Help, explained the reasons the shrine began this project.
“As our world faces a shortage of peace and an increase in division and attacks within our families and the Church, our bishops are facing extreme challenges,” he said. “This is what inspired ‘The Shepherd Project’ — to pray, through the intercession of our Blessed Mother, for our Church leaders and ask Our Lord to grant them the grace necessary to heroically guide our communities in these precarious times.”
Father Broussard explained how the idea and mission took root and quickly sprouted.
“As things in the Church continue to expand with regard to the Pope’s call to the bishops to consecrate the world to our Blessed Mother, we thought it would be a good idea here at the shrine, the first and only approved Marian apparition site in the United States, to take advantage of the many graces that flow through this place to pray for the bishops — for the strength, wisdom, insight and grace to lead the people of God to Jesus,” he told the Register. The shrine decided to “make it a part of our daily prayer routine: Include the bishops in our Mass intentions, and pray for them, their needs and intentions throughout the day. That evolved into our Shepherd Project.”
This project is not limited to the shrine or local dioceses, but meant for every diocese in the United States, plus the 10 dioceses in U.S. territories and the Military Archdiocese, to embrace.
The shrine aims “to include as many people from around the country as we can, praying for our bishops, who are in need of a lot of prayer and support from us the faithful,” he said.
All of the bishops across the country are prayed for, one bishop, one diocese per day, through the end of October. The shrine has assigned a particular date on which each bishop will be remembered in prayer. The first day of prayer was for Archbishop Jerome Listecki of the Archdiocese of Milwaukee; the second was for Bishop David Ricken of the Diocese of Green Bay; the third was for Bishop William Patrick Callahan of the Diocese of La Crosse. The intentions continued with the Wisconsin dioceses before radiating outward, state by state, to cover the entire country.
The main public prayer takes place during Mass at the shrine.
“Anybody attending Mass here joins us in the prayer,” Father Broussard said. In addition, the shrine also has a prayer box in the downstairs Apparition Oratory with a picture of each particular bishop and diocese in the prayer spotlight that day. Speaking of light, a perpetually lit candle dedicated to all U.S. bishops will remain in this Apparition Oratory throughout the entire project.
The Shepherd Project website presents the entire day-by-day lineup, listing the particular bishop for the day. The ordinary bishop’s name appears, but any auxiliary bishop in that diocese is also automatically included. The webpage also carries the special prayer written for this project.
In addition, prayer cards with an official prayer for the bishops are placed by their picture at the shrine. No one is limited to only this particular prayer, of course. “People can say individual prayers for the bishop throughout the day,” Father Brossard added, “and a lot are doing that on their own.”
Barbara Renard often visits the shrine. She told the Register she has been coming here “since I was a young child. Growing up, my mom and dad went there a lot.” Visits included going to the oratory, where she vividly remembers seeing the “wheelchairs and crutches and other things hanging from the ceiling,” attesting to answered prayers. “And I remember people on their knees praying the Rosary.” When she learned of The Shepherd Project, she immediately thought, “It’s Marian-inspired. I believe Our Lady knows they need to be prayed for. … And when this project came along, it was the right thing to do.”
Renard prays daily for each bishop, such as Bishop Daniel Felton of the Diocese of Duluth, Minnesota, who is from the Green Bay area and served as a priest in the diocese before being appointed to Duluth. Bishop Felton was prayed for on May 21.
She said, “It just seemed personal to pray for all the bishops I am familiar with and for the others who I personally think need lots of prayers.”
The Derochers have been joining in prayer daily, including while traveling.
During the week, Violeta also goes to the shrine for adoration, where she also prays “for all our priests because we need them,” she said. Violeta encourages others to pray for our bishops via The Shepherd Project. She sends the information “to anyone I know who is Catholic” and recommends joining in prayer via parish prayer groups.
For their part, the bishops are grateful.
The shrine began emailing the bishops “to let them know we’re praying for them,” Father Broussard said. He shared how from every single bishop’s office informed about the prayers thus far, he has heard back either directly from the bishop or from his office regarding how pleased, appreciative and thankful they were.
For those within reach of the shrine, Father Broussard encouraged, “If you know your bishop is being prayed for that day, come join us. Make a pilgrimage. We would love it if people did that.”
In any event, “join us in prayer.”
For more information, visit ChampionShrine.org/shepherd-project.