Anna Rae-Kelly saw the Catholic priesthood becoming embattled as a result of the clergy abuse scandal that rocked the Church beginning in 2001.
Suffering from a decline in prestige and reputation among the general public, the priesthood frequently became the butt of jokes and the center of calls for change in longstanding traditions and practices including celibacy and an unmarried clergy.
That is why Rae-Kelly felt a call to action.
“If they are under attack, we don’t receive the Eucharist and the sacrament of reconciliation,” Rae-Kelly said. “After the abuse scandal, they were weakened and we were weakened as a result.”
She organized what has since come to be an international phenomenon called the Lay Fast for Priests.
“For some time, I had felt called to pray for the priests in America and all over the world,” Rae-Kelly said.
This year, the Lay Fast for Priests will be held on Oct. 24. The fast is to be observed until 3 p.m. that day, the hour when Christ died on the cross. Participants refrain not only from food but from anything else that is “significant” to them. For example, Rae-Kelly has known of people fasting from talking, television, or other aspects of everyday life.
At 3 p.m., the fast is broken with prayer. Past fasters have prayed in their own homes or held services in their parishes.