Rosary Year Successes

HAMPTON, Va. — Hundreds of rosary processions, special Masses and adoration hours across the country are helping to bring the Year of the Rosary to a close. But for many people, this ending represents a new beginning in their lives, whose impact might be felt for generations to come.

When Pope John Paul II declared the Year of the Rosary last October he wrote in his apostolic letter, Rosarium Virginis Mariae (The Rosary of the Virgin Mary), that the rosary is “a prayer of great significance, destined to bring forth a harvest of holiness.”

While no one knows for sure all that has transpired this past year, what is known is that millions more rosaries have been prayed, new apos-tolates have begun, and many people have come back to the Church.

Pope John Paul brought the Year of the Rosary to a close when he visited a Marian sanctuary in Pompeii, Italy, Oct. 7, the feast of Our Lady of the Rosary (story, Page 5).

“The rosary has a rich history, and it's wonderful that Pope John Paul II has called us to rediscover it,” said Dominican Sister Marie Blanchette Cummings, principal of the Dominican-run St. Mary Star of the Sea School in Hampton, Va.

The school was to host a family prayer night Oct. 15 with a living rosary involving its 210 students, many of whom wrote meditations and drew pictures to depict the new luminous mysteries the Pope proposed last year.

Meanwhile, Father Francis Peffley, administrator of Holy Trinity Parish in Gainesville, Va., said he has seen a noticeable increase in confessions, attendance at Mass, and conversions to the faith. This year's RCIA class had 60 catechumens, double the 2002 number.

“I would attribute all this to the millions of rosaries that are being said. We have encouraged people to say the rosary every day, and many of my parishioners have told me it has made a dramatic impact on their lives,” said Father Peffley. “They have a lot more peace, their prayer life has increased, and they've found a deepening of their faith and their relationship with the Lord and the Blessed Mother.”

Father Peffley was preparing a diocesan pilgrimage to the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception on Oct. 18, with the theme “The Rosary: Our Spiritual Treasure.” Bishop Paul Loverde of Arlington, Va., was scheduled to lead the event, which was expected to draw 3,000 people.

Dean Crowhurst, a parishioner at Holy Trinity, began saying the rosary last year with his family, praying in particular for the sniper shootings in Washington D.C. to end. Soon after, two suspects were caught, and Crowhurst said it opened his eyes to the power of the rosary.

“As a [former] Protestant, I was always skeptical about the rosary. But it has brought me closer to the faith and given me a deeper relationship with God,” he said “My wife and I have renewed our faith and rediscovered a lot about the Catholic faith that has been very impressive.”

Many people say they experience a peace in their families and in their lives after praying the rosary. Judy Roden has suffered with severe Crohn's disease for 15 years. The San Diego resident nearly died after what had been her 10th surgery in March. The experience left her feeling hopeless and unwilling to go on living with the disease.

“I felt like there was nothing left — mentally, physically and spiritually. There was absolute, complete hopelessness,” she said.

Roden returned to the Church after 20 years, and began saying the rosary at the prompting of her pastor. It has helped her cope with the disease and is bringing her closer to Christ and his mother. “I don't know that there's a lot of trust there yet, but the rosary makes me focus and I can drown out all the anxiety in my head,” she said.

The year has also inspired a number of new apostolates and reinvigo-rated existing ones. The Register printed and distributed 64,000 Rosary Booklets with the new luminous mysteries, of which half were given to military personnel deployed in Iraq. It is reprinting another 50,000 booklets in response to demand.

The reception for the initiative has been “amazing, especially from the young soldiers who received them,” said Michael Lambert, who coordinates the effort for the Register.

Wayne and Dede Laugesen started the Rosary Project, an apos-tolate created in response to the Pope's call to “confidently take up the rosary once again.” The Laugesens developed the first in a series of children's DVDs, called “Holy Baby! Seven Prayers in Seven Languages.”

It gives parents a creative tool that introduces infants and young children to the seven foundational prayers of the rosary in seven languages.

“We're so thankful to the Holy Father for bringing this prayer into the modern age, and calling families to become what we are — the domestic church, engaged in prayer” said Dede Laugesen.

The World Apostolate of Fatima's Minnesota chapter began a media campaign this year with billboards, television and radio ads promoting the rosary for families. Chapter coordinator Connie Schneider said the campaign is in response to the Pope's call to “cast our nets out into the deep.” More than 200,000 Twin Cities commuters see the billboards every day, and even more people are exposed to the radio and television ads.

“We're trying to get the message out that we need to pray for our families, one prayer, one bead at a time,” said Schneider. “Our Blessed Mother is with us, and is bringing us once more the gift of the rosary.”

The chapter also filled the St. Paul Cathedral with 3,000 school-age children on the morning of Oct. 7 to pray the luminous mysteries.

Another 3,000 people attended an evening candlelight rosary procession with the Pilgrim Fatima Statue.

“It can grow from here to the point where we fill every cathedral on the feast of Our Lady of the Rosary with our children. God will not turn his face from these children,” she said. “I hope that this year of the rosary is the beginning of a new time. All we need to do now as Catholics is evangelize out into the deep.”

Barb Ernster is based in Fridley, Minnesota.