The Family Rosary apostolate has launched its 2012 “Try Prayer! It Works!” contest and is gearing up for a banner year of entries.

For this 17th national contest, Family Rosary is again asking children and teens from all over the country to express their faith through their art, poetry and prose, with a particular theme.

The contest is open to all students in grades K through 12 from Catholic schools, parishes, home schooling, religious-education classes and other Catholic organizations. Depending on the final tally, there is a potential of a total of 36 awards: first, second and third place at each grade level.

This annual national competition regularly draws more than 3,000 entries.

The theme for 2012’s contest is “Fear not, I am with you!” and focuses on the Second Joyful Mystery, The Visitation.

Children and teens are to think about Mary’s visit to comfort and help her cousin Elizabeth as she awaits the birth of Christ, then ask themselves how they visit with people.

Who do they visit, why do they visit, and do they see Christ in others like Mary and Elizabeth did during their own visitation?

Teens and children should then express their thoughts on this theme creatively through artwork, poetry and essays.

For instance, past winners include Maryann McKay Kirkhoff, whose essay included the thought: “Prayer has made my family stronger and more united. No matter the trouble … it’s nothing prayer can’t fix.”

Holy Cross Father John Phalen, the president of Holy Cross Family Ministries, which includes Family Rosary, gives some insight into this year’s theme.

“The lesson of The Visitation helps us understand the importance of friendship and service,” he noted. “Visiting with others is an opportunity to share God’s love and to offer ourselves in charity and service to our neighbors when necessary. When we do so, we know we can count on Jesus and Mary to be there with us.”

Susan Wallace of Holy Cross Ministries/Family Rosary has further hints for contestants.

“If we want to model our lives on this year’s theme, where Mary dropped everything and went on this very difficult journey to see her cousin,” Wallace said, “we can ask: What did I do today to live out the mysteries of the Rosary? How did I visit with my family and friends? Am I truly present to the person I’m with? And are they fully present to me? We have to be bold in our faith. We have to shut our cell phones down for a time so we can visit.”

Servant of God Father Patrick Peyton, who founded Family Rosary, knew the importance of the Rosary and recognized the value of media, reaching millions through radio and television. But he also knew the necessity of face-to-face events — visitations.

2012’s “Try Prayer! It Works!” contest deadline for entries is Feb. 1. For details and an application, visit the website (link above) or call Holy Cross Family Ministries at (800) 299-PRAY (7729).