25th Anniversary News
Parish’s Family Prayer Night set to mark 25 years
By Jeff Kurowski | The Compass
January 13, 2016 —
St. Agnes Parish hosts weekly family prayer which includes rosary, Mass and exposition of Blessed Sacrament
GREEN BAY — Many of the faces have changed and recently, the day of the week changed, but over the past 25 years, the mission of Family Prayer Night at St. Agnes Church has remained the same. The weekly gathering provides a vehicle to spend time with the Lord in a prayer-rich environment.
Family Prayer Night’s origin dates back to October of 1990 when a group of people wanted to pray together and continue a special devotion to the Blessed Mother. Their inspiration included pilgrimages to Medjugorje, prayer at Holy Hill in Hubertus, Wis., and a rosary rally at the Chapel of Our Lady of Good Help in Champion. The group began meeting in the Lobus Lounge at St. Agnes. By January of 1991, it moved to the crying room. Exposition of the Blessed Sacrament was added with the permission of Fr. Richard Getchel, pastor.
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A statue, “Mother of All Peoples, Mother of the Eucharist,” was a gift to St. Agnes Church carved from wood by Leo Moroder of the Province of Bolzano in Italy. It represents the devotion to the Blessed Mother, which has been a part of Family Prayer Night since the beginning. (Submitted photo)
The group prayed the rosary, and a vigil candle
rack was added to represent each family’s
intentions. They outgrew the space, so on Jan.
15, 1991, Family Prayer Night was held in the
church. Mass was concelebrated by Fr. Getchel
and Norbertine Fr. Tim Shillcox. More than
800 people attended the Mass to pray for an
end to the Gulf War.
Family Prayer Night was held each week on
Tuesday evenings prior to a move to Mondays
in November 2015. Two hours of prayer
are scheduled. Each evening begins at 6:30
p.m. with the rosary and confession. Mass is
celebrated at 7 p.m. Quiet prayer before the
Blessed Sacrament follows the liturgy. Some
continue praying the rosary or the Chaplet of
Divine Mercy together.
A one-of-a-kind statue represents the devotion
to Mary. The statue, “Mother of All Peoples,
Mother of the Eucharist,” was a gift carved
from wood by Leo Moroder of the Province
of Bolzano in Italy. An image of Our Lady of
Guadalupe is also displayed.
Val Bessert, who facilitates Family Prayer
Night along with Paul Defnet and Joan Ross,
said the group is grateful for all “graces and
blessings received for ourselves and families
over the years and for all answered prayers.”
She also offered thanks to Fr. Getchel,
succeeding pastors at St. Agnes, Norbertine Fr.
Dane Radecki and Fr. Patrick Beno, for their
support, and for the “many dedicated priests
who have graciously served on our weekly
“I have a respect and appreciation for the fact
that we’ve had such a longstanding devotion in
our parish,” said Fr. Beno, current pastor at St.
He added that he is also thankful for the Divine
Mercy Sunday celebration at the church, which
always draws a large number of people. The
annual tradition at St. Agnes began in 1995
with a celebration sponsored by the Family
Prayer Night group.
Defnet said that he first started with a family
prayer group at SS. Peter and Paul Parish in
Green Bay. Bessert invited him to help at St.
“Val is the driving force behind it. She is the
lead,” he said. “We rotate nights. We make
sure the volunteers, readers and (extraordinary
ministers of holy Communion) are there. We
make sure the priest is there. We’ve been
fortunate to have a lot of retired priests and
priests in active ministry.”
Some of volunteers have been a part of Family
Prayer Night for most of the 25 years. Ron
Waldvogel, a member of St. Philip the Apostle
Parish in Green Bay, has been an altar server
since the beginning.
“There are a lot of good people who are a part
of it,” said Waldvogel, 80, who also serves at
Mass at St. Philip. “We all do this together.
There is a core group of 30 to 35. A lot of
people have come and gone. We have a few
young people, but could use more. It’s a gift
from the Lord.”
Waldvogel arrives early to set up for Family
Prayer Night. He credits his wife, JoAnn, for
having supper ready at 3 p.m. so he can arrive
at church by 4 p.m. The doors open at 6:10
“I don’t get home until around 9 p.m.,” he
said. “It’s a long night, but very enriching. I
like to help out. I had a great mom. She taught
me well. The Lord has been good to me and I
appreciate the people.”
Family Prayer Night is a part of the Global
Apostolate of Family Prayer Night Devotions,
an international ministry to families, which
provides resources (www.FamilyPrayerNight.
org). Participants may come for all or part
of the two hours of prayer. Some come for
reconciliation. Others arrive in time for Mass.
The facilitators invite newcomers to attend,
especially in response to Bishop David
Ricken’s call for a deeper prayer life and to
exercise mercy through prayer in this Year of
Mercy, declared by Pope Francis.
“It’s been a great blessing in my life,” said
Bessert, a member of St. Louis Parish,
Dyckesville, and former member at St. Agnes.
“We do feel like family. … It’s been a great
strength for the people who come here. There
are a lot of trials and tribulations in life. We
pray for one another.”
“At the end of the day, you can be so tired from
work, but when you go there, you feel a lot
better,” said Defnet, a member of Resurrection
Parish in Allouez. “You have to believe in the
Holy Spirit. We will keep going to see what
direction the Lord wants us to go.”