A prayer campaign for the upcoming elections launched by a permanent deacon on Staten Island is not meant to sway voters toward a particular candidate, but rather to ask God’s guidance in “forming informed consciences in people” and assurance that whoever wins, “it’s for the betterment of our country.”
Such is the thoughtful strategy of Deacon Jim Stahlnecker of St. Mary of the Assumption, Our Lady of Mount Carmel and St. Benedicta parish on Staten Island, who has served as coordinator of the Staten Island Respect Life vicariate for 25 years.
In addition to specific election-themed prayers available in both English and Spanish (“A Prayer at Election Time” and “A Prayer to Mary”), Deacon Stahlnecker is advocating Eucharistic Adoration and prayers before the Blessed Sacrament for the purpose of the elections at Our Lady of the Eucharist Perpetual Adoration Chapel, on Victory Boulevard on Staten Island, and beyond.
The prayer campaign has gone national and, now, international. More than 56,000 prayer cards have been distributed, according to Deacon Stahlnecker, including to all parishes in the archdiocese, 900 perpetual adoration chapels across the country, major contemplative religious orders and other Catholic institutions. Prayers of support, he added, have arrived from India, Great Britain, France, Ecuador, Ireland, Canada, Germany and Goa.
Deacon Stahlnecker, 77, credits the campaign’s success to the collaboration of supporters in the archdiocese. Among them is Sister Lucy Marie, S.V., coordinator of the archdiocesan Respect Life Office, who spoke about the campaign at a panel at the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ directors meetings in August. Brother Aloysius Milella, S.S.P., from the Society of St. Paul, has also played an integral role in promoting the prayer campaign. Brother Milella, years ago as local superior of the Society of St. Paul, permitted use of a building on the congregation’s grounds in the Westerleigh section of Staten Island for the perpetual adoration chapel.
“It’s igniting,” Deacon Stahlnecker said of the prayer campaign. “It seems it’s just not stopping now,” he said. “It’s like those candles that won’t go out, they keep on relighting.”
An all-night vigil, which includes a special Mass, is planned on Staten Island the day before Election Day on Tuesday, Nov. 8. According to Deacon Stahlnecker, Auxiliary Bishop John O’Hara will serve as principal celebrant at the 9 p.m. Mass Monday, Nov. 7, at St. Charles Church at Hylan Boulevard and Penn Avenue.
The purpose, Deacon Stahlnecker said, is “to pray for discernment in casting our votes.”
The vigil will conclude with 5 a.m. Mass on Nov. 8 offered by Father Louis Jerome, pastor of St. Charles.
“I feel very at peace,” Deacon Stahlnecker said. “I feel comfortable now with the election. I’m going to sleep well. That’s how much I put my trust in our Lord. I feel completely comfortable, that I did what I had to do. I know he has a purpose, our Blessed Lord.”
The Blessed Mother, through her intercession, plays a major role in the prayer campaign, said Deacon Stahlnecker. “I have all the Legions of Mary involved” as well, he added.
“What we’re praying for is people vote with an informed conscience,” Deacon Stahlnecker underscored. “We need the Lord, desperately.”
Deacon Stahlnecker recalled with amusement casting a vote for president for the first time in the 1960 election.
He accompanied his maternal grandfather to the polling place. “He went in first. All I heard was, click, click, click, click,” said Deacon Stahlnecker.
Startled by the rapid-fire vote of his grandfather, he asked, “‘Pop, how come you did it so fast? Didn’t you think about it?’” His grandfather replied, “No, Kid,” and then explained that he voted a straight ticket.
Bringing it back to the present day, Deacon Stahlnecker is adamant: “My job is to say, alright, Lord, this looks like a real impossible situation. I’m putting it into your hands. And that’s what I’ve done.
“I believe in prayer, and especially prayer before the Blessed Sacrament,” Deacon Stahlnecker said. “I try to rally all of the people that do it.”
Although the prayer campaign began last fall, since January he has averaged eight hours a day promoting the prayer campaign.
The Blessed Sacrament “is the greatest gift that we could possibly receive. There is nothing on earth compared to that, God come down from heaven. We receive him in the most intimate way, with the bread and the wine.”
Studying the saints, Deacon Stahlnecker said, he learned “how they accomplished such marvelous things with trust in the Eucharist.”
“I have this love of the Eucharist. I’ve come to realize the tremendous power of the Eucharist. Reviewing it in history, that made me more certain that what I was doing was right, with this international prayer campaign. There’s nothing more you can do.”
To the average person in the pew who has angst about the presidential election, Deacon Stahlnecker offers some words of reassurance: “Nothing is impossible with God. What’s going to happen is going to happen. Pray. Pray. Pray.”
What is for certain, Deacon Stahlnecker believes, is, “We’re at a turning point in our country’s history. We have to go to the very top, and that’s the Blessed Sacrament.”
A Prayer At Election Time
O Lord, Our Just and Loving Father,
We thank you for the precious gift of Human Life
That is greatly threatened by the Culture of Death.
Aware of the dangers we are now facing,
We ask that You guide us in electing the leaders
Our nation truly needs:
-Leaders with the wisdom to discern your providential plan,
-Leaders who understand the weakness of the human condition,
-Leaders who counsel our citizens to respect the rule of law,
-Leaders with the fortitude to face their opponents with grace,
-Leaders with knowledge of our Constitution and of natural rights,
-Leaders whose piety makes them aware of their own limitations,
-And leaders whose reverential fear informs their moral judgment.
We pray that the inalienable rights
To life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness,
Promised by our founders,
May be preserved, protected, and defended for all,
Especially the most vulnerable members of our society.
Almighty and Merciful God,
Sustain us in our struggle to live in peace
As one nation under God. Amen.
© OLOE Chapel