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Diocese of Grand Rapids warns about pay-for-prayer calls

Keep an eye out for calls from St. Mary's Prayer Center Ministry, which seek a donation in exchange for prayer.

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. - The Catholic Diocese of Grand Rapids is warning people about a suspect call some are mistakenly associating with the diocese.

The call, and subsequent voicemails, are from St. Mary’s Prayer Center Ministry, which seeks a donation in exchange for prayer.

The Better Business Bureau Serving Western Michigan said it's aware of these calls.

The BBB sent a recording of the voicemail, which states: "Hello. This is St. Mary’s Prayer Center Ministry. Calling today to see if you need urgent prayer. If you would like to have someone from our center pray for you, please press 1. If you would like to no longer hear from us, please press 3."

The diocese said the St. Mary’s Prayer Center Ministry is not associated with the diocese, or with any of its parishes or schools.

Annalise Laumeyer, the director of communications at Catholic Diocese of Grand Rapids, said they became aware of the calls after a few employees and parishioners reported the calls to them.

Charity Navigator, an evaluator of charities, states on its website, “this organization is not registered with the IRS, but is soliciting from the general public in violation of federal tax law.”

Thus, Charity Navigator issued a High Concern CN Advisory.

The West Virginia Attorney General shared a release Thursday, warning about unsolicited pay-for-prayer calls from the same group.

Laumeyer said the Diocese of Grand Rapids will never call and ask if you want to receive prayers. If you want to be prayed for, you must reach out to the diocese or parishes yourself, and be added to a prayer list.

“We want to make sure that people know that the diocese, our parishes and our schools will never ask for donations, will never ask for money in exchange for prayers," Laumeyer said. "If you are in need of prayers, please call one of our parishes, and we will pray for you for free.”

The BBB offered the following tips:

1. Pay attention to the phone number.

  • In this case, the calls come from a variety of numbers, many appear to be local.
  • When groups frequently change phone numbers or try to conceal their identity, it's a red flag.

2. Know what you are purchasing.

  • Always be aware of what you are being asked to spend, and what it's for.

3. Know who you are giving to.

  • Be sure to do your homework.

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