FOREST HILLS — During the past few weeks, the Catholic Church has called for its people across the world to pray for peace in the Middle East, as the Israel-Hamas war ravages on.
In Forest Hills, 150 people decided to go somewhat further; offering their prayers out loud — and outside — as a community, forming a “living rosary” at Our Lady of Mercy Church on Sunday, Oct. 22.
The participants, who ranged in age from elementary school students to as old as 90, spent the afternoon side by side, hoping for a ceasefire in the Holy Land.
For this type of prayer service, the life-size rosary consists of people forming a circle with each person representing a bead. Each then in turn recited the prayer associated with their position in the rosary.
It was a combination of young and old coming together — at least 30 students were part of the hourlong service, 20 of whom were from Our Lady of Mercy Catholic Academy. Many were wearing their school uniforms.
“It [praying the rosary] stops conflict. It stops people from hating each other. It stops hate crimes,” said participant Everett Dutton, an eighth grade student at Our Lady of Mercy Catholic Academy.
While the Holy Rosary Society, which was reinstated in October of last year, had planned this prayer service since July, the purpose shifted as the months progressed to include a focus on world peace.
The society, which had become dormant in past years, now has 30 members. It was brought back to life by Our Lady of Mercy’s pastor, Father Frank Schwarz, who was on sabbatical in Rome when the Oct. 22 event was held.
“We hope that peace will be restored to the very areas that Jesus himself preached in, walked in, taught in, so that was one of our intentions,” Msgr. John McGuirl, temporary administrator of Our Lady of Mercy, told Currents News.
Fabienne Danies, the secretary of the Holy Rosary Society and parishioner at Our Lady of Mercy, said that Sunday’s living rosary was the first at the church, but hopes to make it an annual tradition. “A better world begins with peace,” she emphasized.
The community aspect of the living rosary was impossible to overlook, Danies said. Living in Queens, one of the most ethnically diverse places in the world, makes the wars in Ukraine and the Holy Land, thousands of miles away, feel close to home.
“People of all faiths, people of all ethnicities — and here we were in the middle of that. A little nugget praying for peace and having our prayers waft to the heavens, and waft all around us to our whole community,” she said.