DeKALB – Darin Burns received a terrible phone call late Tuesday morning: The best friend of one of the assistant managers he works with had just been hit by a semi-truck.
He was taking a shortcut through DeKalb’s residential community by St. Paul’s Episcopal Church when members of the church asked if they could pray for him, or someone he knows. The 22-year-old management major agreed.
“I was praying for [the assistant manager] to cope with it,” Burns said, adding that he didn’t know if the friend was alive or dead.
Burns was one of the many people who walked by the church as its members offered free food and prayers to anyone who walked past.
Many of the public prayers were from Northern Illinois University students, who were hoping for divine assistance in obtaining a job or doing well on their final exams. The Rev. Stacy Walker-Frontjes said the impetus of “Prayers2Pass” came from the stress she noticed students were dealing with around Ash Wednesday.
“Some of them didn’t necessarily want the imposition of ashes, but they seemed to appreciate that somebody was talking to them and offering to pray for them, so we thought, ‘You know what, there’s something to this,’ ” Walker-Frontjes said. “We thought, ‘What if we offered to ... pray with people or pray for people at the end of spring semester?’ ”
The church also posted prayers online on their Twitter account, @StPaulsDeKalb, each was marked with the hashtag #Prayers2Pass. Jamie Stubblefield, a member of St. Paul’s, said he thought using Twitter allowed the event to easily spread among NIU students.
“We thought it might be a way that, if we marked it with a hashtag, it might spread the word a little bit with students,” Stubblefield said. “If they notice their friend tweeting a hashtag and they checked it out. We’re just trying it out.”
Walker-Frontjes added that the Internet and social media provide another way for people of faith to connect and share with each other.
Later that day, members of the church specifically named the people who asked for a public prayer during a vigil. Walker-Frontjes said the vigil gave members of the congregation a way to contribute to the event.
Joyce Beaulieu, a priest associate at St. Paul’s, said the prayers were open to everyone, regardless of faith and regardless of the reason. One person, who identified himself as Hank, prayed for his dog to get better. An NIU student from Africa also sought guidance.
“We’ve noticed a lot of students from ... all over the world – here they are, away from families,” Beaulieu said. “They’re getting into an anxious time of their lives with finals beginning on Saturday, so we thought we should do this.”