How to Plan a Vigil

A vigil is a powerful way for people to come together as a community to pray for any of a vast number of social causes. The following list provides some tips for planning and holding a prayer vigil.

  • Pick a topic for the vigil. Vigils can have a general focus - such as praying for all those on death row, the unborn, those who do not make a just wage, or peace in lands plagued by war or genocide - or can come from a more specific instance, like a scheduled execution or a particular act of violence.

  • Learn more about your selected topic. The more background knowledge that those preparing the vigil have, the more effective the vigil will be. Learn how Catholic social teaching addresses your issue. Consider preparing an informational flyer to distribute at your vigil that includes basic facts about the topic, some quotes from Catholic social teaching that address the topic, and ways for participants to get involved in the area of choice after the vigil. 

  • Find a suitable location. Public places like town squares or parks are good for vigils, as often people passing by will stop and join the service. Locations that specifically relate to the topic of your vigil, such as outside of a prison or a chain store known for its poor labor policies, are also good choices. Wherever you plan to hold the vigil, make sure you obtain any necessary permission well in advance.

  • The most important part of any vigil is the prayer involved. Prayer should involve scripture readings, music, reflections, and ritualistic participation by all those gathered, whether with a prayed response, sung musical refrain, or other mode of participation. Plan out the flow of the prayer, how many readers you'll need, what readings and songs you'll use, and any other materials you might need. Candles, for instance, are spiritual symbols that are appropriate for evening vigils.

  • Spread the word. Write an announcement for Mass or the weekly bulletin and use word of mouth. Invite your priest and other parish leaders to participate. " Enter the vigil with a spirit of prayerful reverence. With good planning and a good team, a vigil can be a unique and inspiring form of prayer.