Prayer Workouts go beyond aerobics room

Sara Myers

Faith Editor

Submitted Photo: Victoria Gazzillo

Seniors Victoria Gazzillo (left) and Mary Kate Halligan (right) co-founded prayer workouts as first-year students.

Seniors Mary Kate Halligan and Victoria Gazzillo began hosting Prayer Workouts two and a half years ago, during the Spring 2015 semester. Today the workout class has morphed into something Halligan said is much different than what they expected.

Prayer workouts are like many other workout classes, but also have a prayer component. Halligan this component said makes it unique from anything she had experienced before. She explained that during each class, they offer up the workout for a special intention.

“The burn that you get from the workout – the out of breathness, the feeling of wanting to give up – that’s something that we can offer up, so you can see the positive in the pain and use it as a prayer,” Halligan said.

She stressed that aside from the prayer aspect, they are typical high intensity interval training workouts using body weight. They involve exercise such as push-ups, squats and burpees. The instructor counts of their set of repetitions, while the participants do whatever they can in that same amount of time. She said completing the intervals for time rather than repetitions makes the class more accessible to different fitness levels.

“That’s why it’s good for any fitness level – you could do 2 push-ups or you could do 25, and no matter what, everyone’s getting to a point where they are pushing themselves and it’s giving them something to offer up throughout,” Halligan said.

Prayer workouts began after Gazzillo approached Halligan with an idea inspired by Hard As Nails Ministry, whose primary way to minister to people is through this type of workout. Having met in a faith context and knowing that Halligan was interested in fitness, Gazzillo reached out and the prayer workout classes began.

When the class first started, Halligan said it was primarily the two leaders and their friends. After printing posters and quarter sheets to reach out to a larger base, they have had people from faculty members to first year students participate in the workouts. She said the diversity contributes to a different dynamic each time.

As different offices around campus became more interested in the Prayer Workouts, they began to offer sponsorships and donations. Since the classes require no equipment and have no expenses, Halligan and Gazzillo have taken to using the sponsor money to provide fresh produce for local food pantries.

The produce is donated to the St. Francis of Assisi Food Pantry in downtown Scranton and the Leahy Clinic in Leahy Hall. The reasoning behind this unconventional use of donations, Halligan said, came from the very nature of the classes.

“Because it is a class focused on thinking outside yourself, not focusing on what you want to do but looking outward, that’s kind of what we did,” she explained. “We looked outward, and we thought we might as well see if they’ll still be willing to give money to do something like that.”

Prayer Workouts are held every Monday at 7 p.m. and every Friday at 6 p.m. in the Byron Center Aerobics Room.

Meet Mary Kate Halligan

Mary Kate Halligan will begin the Doctoral of Physical Therapy program at The University next fall. Unlike most students who will enter that program and are currently exercise science majors, Halligan is a biology major. Growing up playing sports and greatly enjoying science, Halligan said she chose Physical Therapy because it “marries those two field”. She said she is particularly excited for the opportunity to get to know her patients, whom she will see three times a week for a couple of months, an opportunity which she explained not many other fields in the health care profession have.

Outside of academics and prayer workouts, Halligan enjoys participating in intramural club sports – including volleyball, field hockey, softball, and baseball. She also particularly enjoys the retreats which are held at the Chapman Lake Retreat Center. Halligan said that her trip to the Mexico border with the International Service Program was “probably the coolest thing” she had done at The University thus far. She also is starting to interpret at the Leahy Clinic this semester.

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