About 300 people of various faiths gathered at Rose Tree Park in Media on Thursday, May 4 for the 66th annual National Day of Prayer.

Formally established under President Harry S. Truman in 1952, the day is observed on the first Thursday of May. The event serves as a call to pray for the United States, according to the National Day of Prayer Task Force, a private organization that promotes the annual event.

Patti Bruno, director of the organization’s Delaware County branch, said the observance is as a great way to unite residents, including local Catholics, for social transformation.

“Prayer is the starting point for things to happen,” said Bruno. “If we start praying, things start changing.”

The event began with a presentation by the Delaware County Sheriff’s Office Honor Guard, followed by a moment of silence for fallen soldiers and emergency personnel.

Bruno welcomed attendees and introduced this year’s theme, which was based on Daniel 9:19: “For your great name’s sake! Hear us … forgive us … heal us!”

Leaders then offered both communal and personal prayer.

Augustinian Father Robert Hagan interceded for churches, priests, deacons, youth leaders and service ministries. The associate athletic director at Villanova University and a first-time participant in the event reminded participants that although God does not always answer our petitions, prayers nonetheless help us to improve in our everyday lives.

“There is one God and one Spirit,” Father Hagan said. “Prayer doesn’t change the outcome of things but it changes us. Prayer moves our hearts.”

While students at Villanova University were unable to join him due to final exams, Father Hagan was glad to be part of the celebration.

“Any opportunity to bring people together is good,” he said. “As Catholics, we believe in the transformation and how it changes us. I’m happy to be here.”

Ed and Mary Anne Weber of Westbrook Park, members of St. Eugene Parish in Primos, were also new to the event.

“We have been wanting to come for years and speak for God,” said Ed Weber. “We appreciate our religious freedom. We hope to get more hope.”

Mary Anne Weber viewed the celebration as a means of deepening her relationship with the Lord.

“I’d like to get closer to God and to please him,” she said.

In addition to spoken prayer, the celebration featured music by the Rockdale Boys, a traditional gospel and bluegrass band from southern Delaware County. Selections included “Sweet Hour of Prayer” and “How Great Thou Art.” The event concluded with a rendition of “God Bless America.”

The National Day of Prayer was also observed elsewhere in the Archdiocese of Philadelphia, including gatherings at Independence Mall, the Montgomery County Courthouse, the Penn Township Park Pavilion and the Royersford Flagpole.