More than 400 people filled Niagara Square with prayer during the noon hour Thursday in observance of National Day of Prayer.
Many of those who gathered sat in the sun on folding chairs and listened to inspirational messages from speakers, including Bishop Edward Grosz, Pastor Suk May Yei and the Rev. Jon Hasselbeck.
“There has never been a more important or urgent time to pray for our city and nation as right now,” said Anne McCune, co-chairwoman of Western New York National Day of Prayer task force. “This year is going to be special, as leaders in our community are praying specifically for God’s best for government, education, business, media, family, church and more.”
The annual prayer observance was established in 1952 by President Harry S. Truman as a day set aside to “turn to God in prayer and meditation.” It is an annual day of observance designated by the U.S. Congress to be held on the first Thursday of May. Each year since its inception, the president has signed a proclamation encouraging all Americans to pray on that day.
Western New Yorkers have gathered for “Prayer in the Square” since 2007.
Connie Gwinner of Renovation Church on Hertel Avenue took this week off well before she heard of the prayer rally downtown. She called it divine intervention.
“I’m on vacation this week, and I came down especially for it,” she said. “It wasn’t my doing; it was His.”
Diane Balicki of West Seneca attends Wesleyan Church in Hamburg. She lost her job as a medical biller earlier this year.
“I have a lot of time to be able worship God and pray,” Balicki said as she distributed event programs.
Gale Cirocco, pastor of congregational care and prayer at Wesleyan, invited “churches and believers from every denomination to join us in this important and urgent time of prayer for our community and nation.”
The theme for this year’s prayer rally, being observed in cities across the nation, is “Lord, Hear Our Cry.”
As part of the national observance, Bishop Richard J. Malone was scheduled to address the National Catholic Prayer Breakfast in Washington.
As chairman of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops Committee on Laity, Marriage, Family Life and Youth, Malone will talk about family, life and marriage.
“I am truly honored to have been chosen to speak on matters of such urgency at the significant national event,” Malone said.
More than 1,000 were expected to attend a breakfast at the Marriott Marquis in Washington. The breakfast was established in 2004 in response to St. John Paul II’s call for new evangelization.
The theme of this year’s breakfast was “family,” based on the upcoming Vatican-sponsored World Meeting of Families Congress this September in Philadelphia, and the Synod of Bishops on the Family at the Vatican in October.