Archdiocese Local

Group marks 1,000th night of praying together online

Jolene and Jim Garcia, members of Our Lady of Guadalupe Parish in Topeka, lead a nightly prayer group in the Chaplet of Divine Mercy via Facebook livestream and have since March 18, 2020. The group celebrated its 1,000th consecutive night of praying together on Dec. 13, 2022. Since its inception, anywhere from five to 35 people pray with the couple on any given night. LEAVEN PHOTO BY MARC ANDERSON

by Marc and Julie Anderson

TOPEKA — Exactly 1,000.

That’s how many consecutive nights one group has prayed together as of Dec. 13.

Started on March 18, 2020, the group was the idea of Jim Garcia, a member of Our Lady of Guadalupe Parish in Topeka, who didn’t expect it to last long.

After receiving notice from his work that everyone was to stay home for two weeks due to COVID, later that day, Garcia found himself reviewing Facebook posts. One caught his eye.

“It was just a meme someone had shared, but it said that at 9 o’clock people should pray for our world and what’s going on,” he said.

After asking his wife Jolene what she thought, he posted an invitation on Facebook saying the couple would pray the chaplet of Divine Mercy at 9 p.m. that same night via Facebook live-stream.

Five to 10 people joined them.

When they finished praying, Jim asked if anyone wanted to pray again the next night. Everyone said yes.

And they kept saying yes night after night.

“It just became a nightly ritual,” Jim said.

Jim Garcia prays with a group of people joining virtually through Facebook Live. LEAVEN PHOTO BY MARC ANDERSON

Eventually, the group, which quickly grew and regularly includes between 15 to 35 people, established some traditions.

Most nights, Jim simply leads the chaplet of Divine Mercy aloud, but on Sundays, he sings it. Then, on Wednesdays, the group prays the rosary. On Fridays in Lent, the group meditates on the Stations of the Cross. And every day, the group ends with a common night prayer, one which changes monthly. For example, during November, the group prayed for those who have served or are serving in the military.

Every night, Jim mounts his cell phone on a tripod and broadcasts the couple’s voices praying together. In order to keep the focus on Jesus and Mary, the camera is always focused on a photo — usually of Divine Mercy or the parish’s statue of Our Lady of Guadalupe. During Lent, the couple uses photos of the parish’s Stations of the Cross.

Because Jim uses his cellphone, he’s been able to lead the group not only from the couple’s home but from other places, too. For example, when traveling, they usually pray from their hotel room or a family member’s home. This past September, though, those who tuned into the nightly livestream one Friday night were treated to an image of the large crucifix on stage for the annual Christ Our Life conference in Des Moines, Iowa.

To minimize distractions and technological delays common to conference calls and videoconferencing, Jim and Jolene keep the communication one-sided, although they turn on the live-chat feature. That way, people can submit prayer requests or share prayers of thanksgiving. Jolene reads the intentions aloud either before praying or in between decades.

Jim and Jolene Garcia pray together and with others joining live from Facebook. LEAVEN PHOTO BY MARC ANDERSON

On those occasions when the Garcias cannot lead the group due to other commitments, the couple relies on other parishioners, including Felipe Rangel, who joined the group “as soon as he heard about it” for one reason — the power of prayer.

“I believe  in the power of prayer. It made me feel good — not just to be praying but also to be praying with people I knew as well as some people I didn’t know,” Rangel said.

While the group consists mostly of Our Lady of Guadalupe parishioners, other Topeka parishes are represented, too.

For example, Marilyn Hilderman of St. Matthew Parish is another regular member. She said the group is “spiritually one big family” and it has provided her “that connection of being able to let people know what our heart needs and what we feel.”

Then there’s Jennie Heim from Most Pure Heart of Mary Parish, who said simply, “There’s comfort in knowing that all of us are praying for the same things. . . . I just really enjoy participating.”

An image of the Divine Mercy is displayed for the virtual audience praying with Jim and Jolene Garcia through Facebook. LEAVEN PHOTO BY MARC ANDERSON

The group even reaches beyond the archdiocese. Jim’s sister Carol Hinojosa, who lives in Ohio, has listened almost from the start.

“I’ve been doing it all along with him (Jim). I feel bad when I miss one [day]. So, I’ll go back and replay it,” she said. “I don’t feel like I’m ready for bed unless I’ve heard it. I don’t feel like my night is complete. I don’t know how to explain it.”

Also, she knows firsthand prayers are being answered.

About two years ago, her doctor discovered a spot on her lungs. She asked the group to pray for her. When she returned to the doctor a year later, the spot was gone.

“It just wasn’t there anymore. The doctor was astounded,” Hinojosa said.

Hearing reports of answered prayers is one reason the Garcias said they’re happy the group continues to pray together, and Jim said he’d encouraged others to try it.

“Don’t be afraid. Don’t be afraid to do it,” he urged. “I tell people to step out of the boat. Jesus is saying, ‘Trust me. I’ve got you.’”

About the author

Marc & Julie Anderson

Freelancers Marc and Julie Anderson are long-time contributors to the Leaven. Married in 1996, for several years the high school sweethearts edited The Crown, the former newspaper of Christ the King Parish in Topeka which Julie has attended since its founding in 1977. In 2000, the Leaven offered the couple their first assignment. Since then, the Andersons’ work has also been featured in a variety of other Catholic and prolife media outlets. The couple has received numerous journalism awards from the Knights of Columbus, National Right to Life and the Catholic Press Association including three for their work on “Think It’s Not Happening Near You? Think Again,” a piece about human trafficking. A lifelong Catholic, Julie graduated from Most Pure Heart of Mary Grade School and Hayden Catholic High School in Topeka. Marc was received into the Catholic Church in 1993 at St. Paul Parish – Newman Center at Wichita State University. The two hold degrees from Washburn University in Topeka. Their only son, William James, was stillborn in 1997.

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