By Marty Denzer
Catholic Key Reporter
BLUE SPRINGS — Social media has become a preferred method of communication — often snippy, gossipy or hate-filled. A group of parents and teachers at St. John LaLande Catholic School wanted to show students that social media can also have a positive side.
Pray it Forward, first occurred to Chrissy, a St. John LaLande parent, volunteer and savvy social media user, about a year ago. She wanted a project that would give students a lesson about social media as well as a lesson for parents on using social media, including Facebook and Twitter.
It was decided to launch Pray It Forward just before Ash Wednesday this year and continue through Lent. Through religion classes, fifth through eighth graders were asked to write a general Lenten prayer that would appeal to all Christians, not just Catholics. About 50 prayers were submitted. A short list of the best was submitted to the parent board and this one was chosen.
“Oh Lord, help us to be the best version of ourselves. Help us to be kind, generous and to have YOU in our hearts. Give us strength to love and care for others. Amen.”
Feb. 7 was launch day. Mikayla Stegner, the fifth grader who wrote the prayer, was starting to get excited about the possibilities inherent in Facebook and in Twitter. The prayer was launched through St. John LaLande School’s website, Facebook page and Twitter accounts. A link was provided so people participating in saying the prayer could sign on and St. John LaLande School could keep track of where the prayer was going. Then Chrissy, the other parents and teachers and Mikayla crossed their fingers.
Within 24 hours, folks from Alaska to Maine had signed on. A day later, the prayer was being said on five continents. Maps of the United States and the world were placed on the bulletin board in the school’s entryway, with pins showing where people were praying to be the best versions of themselves and for kindness, generosity and the strength to love and care for others.
A little over a week later, the maps bristle with pins and webs of string showing the path the prayer has taken on Twitter. The Diocese of Syracuse (NY) shared the prayer will all their diocesan schools. A contact of Chrissy’s in New Zealand shared it with a contact based in Antarctica. Daily tracking indicates that more than 10,000 people in all 50 states and in 32 countries on seven continents, including Antarctica, are Praying It Forward.
Mikayla, who will be 10 in a few days, said she was excited to see how far around the world her prayer was spreading. She wrote the prayer in hopes that people who say it “will feel joyful and think how they can be better people.”
She said she would like to be a lawyer someday since she “likes to argue.” But there’s no argument that her prayer is friendly, welcoming and reflective, said Ann Wright, principal of St. John LaLande.
Chrissy said the outreach of the prayer so far was “crazy and amazing. I thought it would spread in our immediate area, but New Zealand? It’s heartwarming when complete strangers as far away as Botswana say the prayer and share it through social media! Here we have a little girl with a huge voice reaching out to the whole world. It really is amazing, a positive for social media.”
St. John LaLande School would love to see how far the prayer will go, shared on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and through text messages and emails.
Both Ann Wright and Chrissie have high hopes for where the prayer will ultimately reach: Pope Francis in the Vatican. And the thought of that made Mikayla grin from ear to ear.
The Pray It Forward project will continue through Holy Thursday. To join the thousands praying Mikayla’s prayer, visit www.stjohnlalandeschool.com.