U.S.-based Franciscan friars have enjoyed a widespread response to a service allowing Catholics to send in prayer requests via text message.

"It's an amazing thing," Father David Convertino, OFM told CNA Jan. 14. "It's very touching to read the prayers."

In the week that it has been online, Fr. Convertino estimated that his brothers had received more than 5,000 requests for prayer by text messaging.

Fr. Convertino is development director for the Holy Name Province of the Order of Friars Minor, or Observant Franciscans, which includes more than 325 friars up and down the eastern seaboard.

He recalled that the idea came to him while in a meeting at the provincial offices.

"Essentially, I was at a staff meeting one day noticing people were texting during our meeting, and realized how people are texting constantly."

The priest put two and two together, and realized that the flood of prayer requests received by his Franciscan brothers could be submitted through text messages. His idea was warmly received, and quickly initiated.

"We had first thought about it maybe three weeks ago, and then last week we thought, 'Let's go with it now, let's move', so we did."

The provincial office's technology guru set up the system, and the friars began receiving prayer requests Jan. 8.

"They're prayed for everyday at Morning Prayer and Evening Prayer, and then also remembered at Mass," said Fr. Convertino.

Currently the prayers are included at intentions at the provincial house, but they will soon be sent to the Holy Name Province's three retirement houses, as well.

Those wishing to have the friars pray for their intentions text 'prayer' to 30644, and they receive back a welcome message. Then the individual sends their prayer intention, which is logged in an email account.

The requests are then printed out, "so the guys, if they want to do private prayer for the intentions, can actually read all the intentions," noted Fr. Convertino.

"They're very, very touching, I have to say."

"We find there's a lot of alienation from the Church that people are asking prayers for," he said. Many ask prayers for their estranged children or friends, and many ask prayers for those suffering illness as well.

The friars are also flexible in their initiative. After receiving emails from people internationally who cannot message the number provided, the province decided to add an email feature for sending prayer requests. Now those who live outside the United States or who do not use text messaging can send their prayer intentions to the friars by email.

The friars are even being joined in their prayers by people around the world. Fr. Convertino recounted that a South African woman had emailed him offering to "be a part of our prayer for these people...so she's part of what we're doing too."

The generous response reminds Fr. Convertino of St. Francis and the days of the Order's founding.

"It started not as an order, but a movement, the Franciscan movement. It was really a lay movement that Francis was part of. So you still have that now – people are joining us from all walks of life in this prayer movement."