Nightfever invites guests to join in prayer. It originated at WYD 2005 in Cologne, Germany. Photo from Nightfever

Nightfever invites guests into Christ’s presence

  • January 24, 2024

The Archdiocese of Halifax-Yarmouth hosted the youth-driven initiative Nightfever Jan. 21 at Halifax’s St. Mary’s Cathedral Basilica, offering passersby an invitation to join in prayer. 

Nightfever is aimed at young people 16-35. Volunteers invited young people who were passing by to spend some time in prayer inside the downtown cathedral. Those taking up the offer joined in prayer, listened to psalms and music, conversed with team members or even simply abided in the safeness of the church for as little or as long as they liked. 

The night of prayer has been a reoccurring global event in the Catholic Church for almost 20 years, the first ceremony taking place following 2005’s World Youth Day in Cologne, Germany. Fr. Andreas Süß (a seminarian at the time) and then student Katharina Fassler made the event a yearly tradition after seeing the livelihood and fullness of prayer from young Catholics in cities like Cologne, Bonn and Düsseldorf.

To this day, Nightfever events take place in more than 80 German cities and others across Europe. This month, Nightfever events are popping up in cities such as London, Munich and Klagenfurt, Austria.

Maria O’Brien, a co-leader in this year’s event, says Nightfever is an invitation for those who may be disconnected from the faith to spend time in a holy space in a less daunting way. She stressed those who join are welcome for however long they are comfortable. 

It’s not simply the call for prayer being offered guests, but also the opportunity for a judgment-free introduction to spending time in Christ’s presence.

“What’s really beautiful about Nightfever is that we’re bringing something that’s valuable to us in Jesus and we’re creating a beautiful public space that people can feel safe coming in and encountering Him in,” O’Brien said. “There’s no exclusive invite or intimidation, but instead just the idea of, ‘Hey, do you want to come into my home and encounter my friend?’ It’s about the gentle introduction of it.”

Nova Scotia was the first North American city to hold a Nightfever event in 2012. “There was a mission group of young adults from Halifax that attended World Youth Day and they loved the idea,” said O’Brien. “They had a beautiful experience and they decided to bring it back to Halifax.” 

Chris O’Hara, the president of the Canadian Catholic Students’ Association at the time of the first event, recalled how influential the inaugural event was on Halifax.

“That first Nightfever was a landmark moment in that it gave our students an opportunity to see how easy it can be, with the help of the Holy Spirit, to be evangelists themselves,” O’Hara said. “It was an amazing moment in time and one of the clearest signs of God’s hand at work I can remember.”

The initiative was originally supported by Catholic Christian Outreach in the city, before being handed over to the Archdiocese of Halifax-Yarmouth. 

“Here in Halifax, we have a really good established community of Catholic young adults and I think part of it is due to the presence of Catholic Christian Outreach,” O’Brien said. “The Archdiocese has also been so helpful. The office for booking the cathedral, priests showing up and hearing confessions, even (Archbishop Brian Dunn) is a huge supporter of anything related to young adult ministries.” 

O’Brien was assigned in part to organize the three groups that comprise the Nightfever team, all of which are run by some 30 youth volunteers. The first group was located outside the cathedral inviting people to join. Those who accepted the invitation were given a tea light and brought inside where a second team was waiting to light the candles to illuminate the church as a visible symbol of faith and participation. Finally, after being led to the Monstrance for Eucharistic Adoration at the altar, a third group assisted with the service. 

“We’ll have young people in the first few pews or kneeling in front of the Eucharist and they’re intentionally praying for the people coming into the church,” O’Brien said. “They will be praying that our guests could have an openness in this encounter with Jesus and an openness to explore the faith and hopefully come back to church.” 

More information on upcoming Nightfever events can be found at

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