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 | By Hannah Brockhaus, CNA

Pope Francis Welcomes Program to Spiritually Adopt a Struggling Teen

May 16, 2023 | Pope Francis has given his blessing to a program started in Poland to spiritually adopt struggling teenagers and pray for them by name.

Kryzysztof Gawrysiak and his wife, Aneta, spent more than two hours with Pope Francis at his Vatican residence on May 4.

During the visit, they were able to introduce their new online initiative,, which they started after learning more about the rates of depression — and suicide attempts — among adolescents around the world.

“We strongly believe [the prayers are] helping,” Aneta Gawrysiak told CNA last week. “We’ve got a lot of examples, a lot of testimony that prayer is very powerful.”

Kryzysztof Gawrysiak said Pope Francis blessed their prayer initiative and said he would speak about it at World Youth Day 2023, which will be in Lisbon, Portugal, Aug. 1–6. is currently in four languages: Polish, English, Italian, and Ukrainian.

On the homepage for each language, there is a button to click if you are a teenager who wants prayers and another button to click if you are a person who wants to pray for a teen.

According to the initiative’s founders, it is an ecumenical project, because each person is encouraged to pray for his or her spiritually adopted teen in whatever way he or she feels called to.

And while the project is completely anonymous, those praying are also encouraged to pray for someone by name.

The rate of known suicide attempts among youth is so high worldwide, Gawrysiak said, that if you decide to pray for “Jose,” the chances are very strong there is a young “Jose” somewhere in need of those prayers.

Gawrysiak said he felt called to start the spiritual adoption initiative after experiencing the loss of a friend’s 16-year-old son to suicide.

That was “the spark that ignited everything,” the entrepreneur said.

The husband and wife started to read about suicide rates among the young and their eyes were opened. “It’s an unbelievable situation in Poland and in the whole world,” Gawrysiak said. “[It] is very dreadful and we have to think about what to do.”

The couple was inspired by the idea of the spiritual adoption of an unborn baby, a popular initiative within the pro-life movement where someone commits to pray for an unknown unborn baby to be saved from abortion.

Gawrysiak said the team behind the prayer website considers spiritual adoption to be just the first step in helping depressed and suicidal teens.

He explained that they are also consulting with trained psychologists as they consider other ways to help, to ensure any further initiatives will be a positive development for vulnerable teenagers and never something that could make the situation worse.

Gawrysiak said the meeting with Pope Francis on May 4 was “just unbelievable.”

“I got the impression that he was very moved learning different statistics regarding the [suicide] attempts among teens worldwide,” he said.

“The meeting will give us more power to pray even more and help teens to stop the culture of death.”