Parish offers prayers for children fallen away from the Church

RUN TO THE FATHER! The image of the painting, The Return of the Prodigal Son by Rembrandt, appears on the prayer guide for Run to the Father!, a prayer service/holy hour for parents whose children and grandchildren no longer practice the Catholic faith.


Parents worried about their children and grandchildren who no longer practice the Catholic faith are invited to experience the comfort and hope of Christ — and pray for their children — during Run to the Father!, a prayer service/holy hour in Sacred Heart Church in Rock­away on Sunday, April 28 at 3 p.m.

One of the parents praying that afternoon will be Karen Moran Skutka of Sacred Heart, coordinator of the service — a first for the Morris County parish. She will offer intentions for her two sons: one, who attends Mass, and the other, who has left the Church.

Run to the Father! will offer moments of silent Eucharistic adoration. They will be interspersed with relevant hymns and Scrip­ture readings. Parents will recite a rosary with meditations that draw parallels between events in the lives of Jesus and the Blessed Mother and parents’ concerns today. They also will pray a litany of saints to those who found holiness in their vocation as parents, such as St. Anne, St. Monica, and St. Gianna Molla, whose feast day is celebrated on April 28, the day of the service. Prayers will center on God’s mercy and care and the Blessed Mother’s intercession.

“We will pray for comfort and strength in the Lord, trusting him with our children and grandchildren who went to Mass but no longer attend. Our hearts are broken. We love them,” Moran said. She patterned Run to the Father! after a similar service developed in 2019 by the parents of six children in Hingham, Mass. “We hope the power of prayer in numbers will make a difference and bring our children back home to the Church.”

Father Pawel Bala, Sacred Heart’s pastor, will speak to the congregation at the beginning of the hourlong service. Parents will be invited to write their children’s names on paper and place them in a basket at the foot of the altar before Father Bala exposes the Blessed Sacra­ment for adoration. The children’s names will be placed in a book at Sacred Heart; the parish will continue to pray for them. Parti­ci­pants also will venerate a first-class relic of St. Gianna.

Moran put together Run to the Father! with help from Derek Nelson, Sacred Heart’s music director, and his wife, Jennifer, the parish’s religious education coordinator. She said, “St. Gianna is a perfect saint to involve in a prayer service for our children.” Nelson, the mother of seven, co-founded “The Sisterhood of the Traveling Relics of St. Gianna,” a ministry that sends holy cards touched to the saint’s relics to anyone who asks, free of charge.

“St. Gianna cared deeply about the spiritual well-being of the souls entrusted to her by God: her children. May the example of her and her holy spouse, Pietro, and their prayers help us be faithful in our prayers for our children,” Nelson said.

Jennifer Nelson joined Bishop Kevin J. Sweeney and Cecile Pagliarulo to discuss the Sisterhood of the Traveling Relics on episode 48 of Beyond The Beacon. Listen on any of the major podcast services or watch it on the bishop’s YouTube channel.

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