In his role as the Archdiocese of Milwaukee’s director of evangelization, Rich Harter regularly uses the term “intentional” – most often when he speaks about discipleship. He is also using it to explain the purpose that a novena has as the church in southeastern Wisconsin prepares for the June 7-8 Archdiocesan Synod.  

“It is intentionally aimed at helping people enter into a prayer of anticipation and urgency. That really is the nature of a novena,” he said. “By definition, a novena is nine days of waiting, leading up to something, with an intentional prayerful focus.”

Harter noted there is a twofold purpose to a novena – the Pentecost Sequence and the gifts of the Holy Spirit.

The sequence is prayed on Pentecost after the second reading; the gifts of the Holy Spirit are wisdom, understanding, counsel, fortitude, knowledge, piety and fear of the Lord.

“For each day in the novena, there is one part of the Pentecost Sequence as the focal point. Related to that is one of the gifts of the Holy Spirit,” he said. “It’s a nine-day journey of anticipation leading up to the synod event that helps us focus on the Pentecost Sequence and the gifts of the Holy Spirit.”

Harter noted the biblical roots of a novena.

“It has to do with the apostles and the Blessed Virgin Mary waiting in anticipation between the Ascension of Jesus and Pentecost,” he said.

“Pentecost would have been the 10th day. So that’s where we get the idea of urgency and prayerful anticipation.”

Harter noted prayer has been a constant thread throughout the synod preparation, with parishes being provided the synod prayer, petitions for the prayer of the faithful and now the novena.

“We’re asking all the faithful of the Archdiocese of Milwaukee that the synod be part of their prayer,” he said.

Noting that the primary targets for the novena are the delegates, Harter said, “This is the punctuation mark of the synod preparation process they’ve been on for the last several months.”

The novena, to be prayed Thursday, May 29 through Friday, June 6, inclusive, can be found at