Holly Spear-Nichols began a project to enlist prayers for deployed members of the Vermont Air National guard, and the project has taken off beyond her expectations.
A member of St. Francis Xavier Parish in Winooski and Benedictine Oblate at the Immaculate Heart of Mary Monastery in Westfield, Spear-Nichols took seriously the request of her pastor, Msgr. Richard Lavalley, to pray for the service men and women who were deployed in December.
She and a friend went to Burlington International Airport in the wee hours of the morning Dec. 8 – the Feast of the Immaculate Conception -- and stood at a fence parallel to the runway and watched 15 F-16s take off into the night, deployed to the U.S. Central Command region, which covers North Africa and the Middle East to Southeast Asia. “To see that and to feel the vibration” of the engines made her “heart go out” to the Guard members and their families.
For days after, they were in the forefront of her mind. “They all needed to be blanketed in prayer,” she said.
And then came her inspiration: Have plastic bracelets made to remind people to pray for these people.
The green bracelets come in adult and children sizes and have these words in yellow: Please pray for the deployed 158th Fighting Wing, VTANG.”
Spear-Nichols thought she’d purchase 50 to 75 to distribute to “prayer warriors,” friends and family, but by mid January she had ordered 3,000. “It has taken off like fire,” she said of the project she is funding herself, but not releasing how much she has spent. “The way this took off, definitely the Holy Spirit is involved.”
On the first weekend of January she went to the Air National Guard headquarters in South Burlington to distribute bracelets, and she has fulfilled requests for them from St. Michael’s College in Colchester, Rice Memorial High School in South Burlington, the American Legion post in Colchester, a local surgeon’s office and numerous Catholic parishes.
Every member of Winooski’s St. Francis Xavier School community received a bracelet at a recent school assembly.
“This project is a perfect fit for our school,” explained Principal Eric Becker. “The chair of our school board, Brian Senecal, is a chief master sergeant in the Air Guard and is currently deployed. Brian and his comrades and all their families are in our prayers already. We were delighted to have a visual sign of those prayers to share with everyone.”
The distribution of the bracelets to all the students from pre-school through grade eight and their teachers followed a weekly school Mass during which the St. Francis Xavier pastor, Msgr. Richard Lavalley, prayed for the safe return of all the deployed Guard members.
Spear-Nichols is the daughter of the late Brigadier General Richard B. Spear who was a commander of the Vermont Air National Guard. “What better way to honor him than to pray for the Guard he loved,” she commented.
She grew up in Burlington, graduated from Rice in 1972 and earned an associate’s degree in medical/secretarial studies from Champlain College in Burlington then an associate’s in medical technology from the University of Vermont in Burlington. The retired mother of two and grandmother of two worked as a medical technologist.
Always deeply spiritual, Spear-Nichols grew up attending St. Joseph Parish in Burlington. “I’m always about trying to serve others in prayer,” she said. “That’s the focus of a contemplative way of life.”
Her prayers for the Vermont Air National Guard include Liturgy of the Hours prayers, the rosary and Divine Mercy Chaplet and spontaneous prayer. “Anytime I see or feel my bracelet, I pray,” she said.
“Anytime you can mention how much God loves us and the power of prayer, it’s a way of building up the Kingdom of God and unites us as a family,” she said. “Prayer is very, very powerful.”
For more information, write to Holly Spear-Nichols at PO Box 9428, South Burlington, VT 05407-9428.