Twenty-five years ago, Wyn Powers felt inspired to “do something” to help end abortion. Her idea was simple: pray the Holy Rosary to promote respect for life, especially the unborn, and encourage others to do the same.
What began with one woman in Brooklyn is now an international prayer association with lay members in 27 countries, including more than 450,000 in the Philippines alone, and booklets available in seven languages.
For her part, Powers never anticipated how or where the ministry would lead. “I felt that if God wanted it to go, it would,” she said. “My job is to do what I think is God’s work, and leave the rest to Him and our Blessed Mother.”
Last Sunday, Rosary For Life celebrated its silver anniversary during the noontime Mass at Good Shepherd Church.
Powers greeted guests and members of the movement as they arrived at the Marine Park church to pray the Rosary before Mass. An honor guard of Fourth-Degree Knights of Columbus led the entrance procession, which also included Knights and Ladies of the Holy Sepulchre.
Visible among the congregation were several local pro-life leaders, including members of the Joint Parish Respect Life Committee, and its founder, Florence Maloney, as well as supporters of The Bridge to Life, and board president, Cathy Donohoe.
The front pews were reserved for Kenneth Latham, Jr., NYS Deputy for the Knights of Columbus; State Sen. Martin Golden; and Ray Teatum, past lieutenant, Eastern Lieutenancy Knights of the Holy Sepulchre, and his wife, Mary, a retired public school principal. All four were honored by Rosary for Life at a dinner dance following Mass.
The fifth honoree was Brooklyn-born Bishop Frank J. Caggiano of Bridgeport, Conn., the main celebrant and homilist of the anniversary liturgy. He has been Rosary For Life’s national chaplain for the last 18 years.
“We live in an age that doesn’t pray and doesn’t respect life,” the bishop said. “Rosary For Life, in its very simple way, provides the perfect antidote to what we have as major, major challenges.”
In his homily, he touched upon some of those challenges, particularly society’s treatment of “the have-nots,” namely “those people to which society does not accord respect, dignity, a place at the table – even my friends, the right to live.”
He urged faithful to look at the world around them, and if what they see deeply disturbs them, then they need only look in the mirror to find a solution.
“If we want to change society, it begins one person at a time,” the bishop said. “You and I must get on our knees and ask for the grace of the Holy Spirit, because we cannot convert hearts, Christ will. But we need to ask through the intercession of Our Lady.”
Powers took up her mission to change the world when she founded Rosary For Life in 1989 after attending a weeklong prayer retreat that turned out to be a pro-life conference.
Amid the various talks, she heard a talk about how the Polish government tried to deny Pope John Paul II entry to his homeland after he was elected pope. Catholics in Poland responded by praying the Rosary. The government unexpectedly relented and the future saint was welcomed home.
“I came home and had this feeling that I had to do something,” Powers said. “I thought, if the Rosary worked in Poland, it’ll work here to end abortion.”
She formed the idea of Rosary For Life and, encouraged by her spiritual director, created a small booklet outlining the ministry. She printed 1,000 copies of the booklet, and began distributing them at her home parish of Good Shepherd.
As the booklet explains, Rosary For Life is a ministry that is open to anyone, anywhere. Members devote an hour each week, on a set day and time of their choice, to pray 15 decades of the Rosary for an end to abortion, and for respect and reverence of all human life.
From small beginnings, Rosary For Life is now in more than two dozen countries, including Mexico and Canada. The greatest growth has been in the Philippines, aided by Sebastian and Betty Roxas-Chua.
The husband and wife from Manila introduced Rosary For Life in their country after meeting Powers on a pilgrimage to Rome for Padre Pio’s beatification in 1999.
“It was divine providence,” said Betty, who attended the 25th anniversary festivities in Brooklyn with Sebastian and other members from the Philippines.
“My husband and I, we’re business people. We go to Sunday Masses and support the Church, but we never joined any religious organizations,” Betty explained. So when Powers asked them to bring the prayer ministry to their country, they were reluctant, but agreed to try.
Although abortion is not legal in the Philippines, Betty said the procedure still takes place and abortifacients are sold. That is why outreach to young people is the focus of the ministry there.
Guided by Powers, the Roxas-Chuas spread the ministry “one by one,” and now offer presentations in schools, universities, nursing programs – anywhere they are welcome.
And being part of the movement has been fruitful for the couple’s spiritual life as well. They pray the Rosary together every Friday evening in an adoration chapel near their home.
“This has made me more conscious, more aware of what is expected of us as Catholics. Even my devotion to Mama Mary has intensified,” Betty said.
To date, Rosary For Life in the Philippines has 451,000 registered members, and plans are already underway to celebrate its 15th anniversary next fall. Both Powers and Bishop Caggiano have been invited to attend.
Bishop Caggiano recognized Powers and her efforts before giving the final blessing last Sunday. The congregation echoed that acknowledgement with applause.