Inspired by the tradition of St. Francis of Assisi, Fr. Leary and Fr. Lawrence Swink of Sacred Heart, hosted simultaneous days of prayer, reparation, and fasting at their two parishes on the saint's feast day, Oct. 4.
The parishes, in the northern and southern halves of the Archdiocese of Washington, offered to serve as "poles of prayer" for the archdiocese. Parishioners and other Catholics were free to attend a Holy Hour at either parish throughout the event.
The day was focused on the Blessed Sacrament, Leary told CNA, because it is there Catholics "will find the ultimate healing and the grace to respond to this time of pain and suffering in the Church."
Each hour began with the Litany for Priests, composed by Cardinal Richard Cushing, to offer prayers for the ministry of priests.
Leary called the litany "very powerful" and believes it is particularly important to pray for priests during this time, and he said it has been a focus in his own parish since 2009.
He told CNA that these prayers have "borne tremendous fruit, especially the Litany for Priests," and have been "so effective in helping people to understand the beauty, the dignity of the priesthood."
Understanding the priesthood, Leary told CNA, is crucial for Catholics to gain a deeper understanding of the Sacrament of the Eucharist and the Sacrament of Reconciliation.
"Otherwise, it's just a man sitting there listening to their sins," he said.
"But if they see it as a priest, who sits in persona Christi, and then the Mass is an act of sacrifice in persona Christi, their faith will elevate."
Leary hopes that other churches in the area will be inspired by the event and host their own versions. St. Andrew Apostle plans on hosting a 40-hour Eucharistic Adoration around the feast of St. Andrew, which is celebrated on November 30. This event will also include prayer intentions for priests.
Christine Rousselle is a former DC Correspondent for Catholic News Agency. Prior to working at CNA, she was the managing web editor of Townhall.com; she has a BA in political science from Providence College.