Diocesan News

Rosary for Life Founder Steps Down, Ministry Now Run by Franciscan Friars

Wyn’s surprise Birthday celebration on Oct. 9, 2023. (Photo: Wyn Powers)

PROSPECT HEIGHTS — Every day, without fail, Wyn Powers prays the Rosary. 

The 83-year-old Brooklyn woman has done it for years, completing at least one decade a day. Usually, she does four. 

To her, the Rosary has the power to transform one’s own life, as well as the world — and that is exactly what she set out to do more than 30 years ago when she founded Rosary for Life. It all started at her home parish at Good Shepherd Catholic Church in Marine Park, and now the pro-life advocacy group is active in 27 countries. 

Rosary for Life calls upon its members to complete at least one full rosary a day, with the prayers’ intentions to end abortion and preserve human life. The group’s prayer books have been published in English, Spanish, French, Italian, Chinese, Polish, and Tagalog. 

Now, as Powers prepares to retire as president of the organization, she and its other leaders have decided to dissolve the corporate entity and transfer the ministry to the Community of Franciscan Friars of the Renewal in the Archdiocese of New York. 

Rosary for Life founder Wyn Powers next to Msgr. Andrew Vaccari, center, and Bishop James Massa. (Photo: Tablet Archives)

There, she expects there will be more resources available, since the Franciscan Friars of the Renewal are heavily involved in pro-life ministry. Most prominently, ç CFR, served six months in jail in June 2023 for blocking access to a Planned Parenthood abortion clinic in Hempstead, N.Y. 

“They [the Friars] can have Masses. They can have a benediction. They can do things that a lay person can’t do,” Powers told The Tablet. 

Powers says she began Rosary for Life because she felt compelled to do so by the Holy Spirit. She knew “there was something that the Lord wanted [her] to do for Him,” but wasn’t sure exactly how to begin. It was during a retreat that she came to realize that the Rosary was the greatest tool she had to make a change in the world. 

Wyn Powers (right) grew Rosary for Life into an international organization with the help of people such as Sebastian and Betty Roxas-Chua (left). The ministry has more than 500,000 members in the Philippines. (Photo: Courtesy of Wyn Powers)

At the retreat, a speaker reminded the attendees about Pope John Paul II fighting to gain entry to Poland when the government denied him from doing so. It was 1979, and his native land was a Communist country. Concerned faithful prayed the Rosary around the clock in support of the pope’s quest, and eventually the government relented. 

“The speaker said something that really rang in my heart. That the Rosary worked in Poland, and it will work here to end abortion. That really struck me very much, and I figured there was something I had to start doing,” she said. 

Shown, from left, are Wyn Powers, Rosary for Life president and founder, who presented the awards to Kevin and Susan Moore, who accepted on behalf of Msgr. Reilly, and Mike Feller, alongside his wife Linda, with Louis Pepe, Rosary for Life vice president, and Bishop Caggiano.

As the issue of pro-life ministry was close to her heart, Powers decided to form a group of faithful at Good Shepherd, and asked them to pray the Rosary once a week. After an official launch on Nov. 1, 1992, it grew to include parishioners from St. Thomas Aquinas Church and St. Edmund’s Church. They would meet at Powers’ home, with up to 11 people at any time praying once a week.

“I do believe that only God can give a life and only God can take a life. So we have to pray for all human life, from the womb to the tomb,” she said.

Looking to expand Rosary for Life’s reach beyond South Brooklyn, Powers contacted the Eternal Word Television Network (EWTN). To her surprise, she was invited to be on Mother Angelica Live, the show featuring the network’s founder.

“I got into a number of countries by going there [to the show],” she said. “I got over 100 contacts from people who wanted to pray the Rosary. That’s where it kind of started,” she said.

Simultaneously, Powers was reaching out to local parishes, working with then-Bishop Thomas Daily, introducing Rosary for Life to Catholics across the diocese.

Notably, Rosary for Life has over half a million followers in the Philippines. The mission was first introduced to that country in 1999 when Powers met Sebastian and Betty Roxas-Chua on a pilgrimage to Rome for Padre Pio’s beatification.

“God and Padre Pio work in very strange ways,” Powers said with a laugh.

For years, Father Michael Panacali has served as the chaplain for Rosary for Life in the diocese. While he will no longer fill that role, since responsibility for the group will now lie with the Franciscan Friars of the Renewal, he will still partake in the weekly pro-life prayer, because the Rosary “is the most powerful prayer,” he says.

“It’s the prayer that heals and saves the world,” he said. “If you pray anything during your day, pray the Rosary.”