The largest group of Franciscan friars in the United States
is offering the faithful a new way to pray in the digital age
by accepting prayer requests via text messages.
The Friars of Holy Name Province, who staff 40 parishes and
have colleges, soup kitchens and food centres along the
eastern seaboard, as well as groups in Peru and Tokyo, are
among a few religious groups offering this type of digital
Its "Text a Prayer Intention to a Franciscan Friar"
initiative, which is described as faith at your fingertips,
is a novel way for Roman Catholics to connect.
"People are always saying to friars, 'Can you say a prayer
for me?' Or 'Can you remember my mother who has cancer?'"
Father David Convertino, the New York-based executive
director of development for the Franciscan Friars of the Holy
Name Province, said in an interview.
"I was thinking that a lot of people text everything now,
even more than email, so why not have people have the ability
to ask us to pray for them ... by texting."
The faithful simply text the word 'prayer' to 306-44, free of
charge. A welcome message from the friars comes up along with
a box to type in the request. When the it is sent, the sender
receives a reply.
The intentions are received on a website and will be included
collectively in the friars' prayers twice a day and at Mass.
It is one of several ways the friars hope to reach a younger
audience, increase the number of faithful and spread the
faith. They have already renovated their website and the next
step is moving into Facebook and tweeting.
"If the Pope can tweet, friars can text," said Father David.
The friars also have a presence on LinkedIn and have been
streaming some of their church services.
"We're trying," said Father David when asked if the friars
are well into the digital age, adding that they were "rushing
madly into the 19th century."
Most of the 325 friars, whose average age is about 60, are
comfortable with the technology.
"We have a friar who is 80 who was texting today," said
The friars are following the example of 85-year-old Pope
Benedict, the leader of the world's 1.2 billion Roman
Catholics, whom the Vatican said had 2.1 million followers on
Twitter just eight days after sending his first tweet.
The Pontiff tweets in several languages, including Arabic,
and plans to add Latin and Chinese to them.
"We're really excited about this working," said Father David,
about the new programme. "I think we'll be able to keep up
(with all the intentions). That's what we do, we pray for