Bishop Prays with Catholic School Children at St. James Cathedralby Marie Elena Giossi
Sixth grader Ranvir Sidhu thought it was “pretty exciting” to pray the Rosary with Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio and his peers at the ninth annual Rosary Rally for Catholic school children at St. James Cathedral-Basilica, Downtown Brooklyn, Wednesday morning, Oct. 24.
Organized by diocesan Office of the Superintendent-Catholic School Support Services, the 10:30 a.m. rally with the bishop was open to all diocesan elementary schools, but registration was on a first-come, first-served basis.
Six schools secured seats for their students: Divine Mercy Catholic Academy, Ozone Park; St. Bernard, Mill Basin; Queen of All Saints, Fort Greene; Our Lady of Perpetual Help Catholic Academy, Ozone Park; St. Gregory the Great Catholic Academy, Flatbush; and St. Adalbert, Elmhurst.
Jodie Delsol, who accompanied her sixth-grade class from St. Gregory the Great, thought the rally was “a great experience for students to learn how to pray the Rosary and see other students doing the same thing.”
“This is the Year of Faith,” Delsol said, “and this helps them grow in their relationship with God.”
Barbara McArdle, assistant superintendent for principal professional development, greeted teachers and children as they arrived, and Bob Lowenberg, associate superintendent for principal and teacher personnel, handed out programs to each attendee.
An annual event, the Rosary Rally is held “to make the children aware of the unity we share under our patroness,” McArdle said.
“I think it is also good for them to spend time with the bishop,” Lowenberg said. “He’s the chief teacher in the diocese, and it’s important for the children to learn from him. I think he enjoys it too.”
In the Presence of God
Sitting with his classmates from Divine Mercy Catholic Academy, Sidhu said that praying in the cathedral-basilica made him feel like he was “in the presence of God.”
After singing the entrance hymn, “Immaculate Mary,” Bishop DiMarzio led children in praying the Luminous Mysteries, which highlight Christ’s public life and ministry. He knelt facing the altar as boys and girls did the same in the pews behind him.
Among the children raising their voices in prayer were 18 students from the Rosary Club at St. Bernard School. Club members meet weekly to pray the Rosary together and organize five Rosary rallies for their school community each year.
“We try to make the Rosary part of their daily routine,” said Deacon Chris Wagner, who attended with the Rosary Club.
Praying the rosary is also part of the daily routine at Divine Mercy Catholic Academy, noted sixth grader Aleksandre DeJesus. Carrying silver-colored beads, he said he enjoys praying the Rosary after lunch every day. He feels the prayers are a beautiful “way to honor Mary.”
Sixth grader James McGrath from St. Adalbert offered his prayers while holding a set of blue Rosary beads his grandmother gave him for his First Holy Communion. Praying with the bishop, he decided, was a special enough occasion to bring them out of the house.
In his homily, the bishop asked the children if they liked secrets.
“Today, we’ve come to learn about some of God’s secrets,” he said. “We call them mysteries.”
He explained that the mysteries of the Rosary are the events of Jesus’ life as shown through His Blessed Mother’s eyes.
“The Rosary can help us better understand what Jesus teaches,” the bishop said. “We want you to understand this prayer and use it everyday.”
The bishop invited children to pray the Rosary with him on The NET, the diocese’s cable TV station, and also encouraged them to pray with their families at home.
He reminded students that their parents put them in Catholic schools, not only to receive an exceptional education, but “so you can learn about God and put God at the center of your lives.”
Arlene Niles, an eighth grader from St. Gregory the Great, listened carefully to the bishop’s homily, particularly his reference to Father Patrick Peyton, and his well-known phrase: “The family that prays together, stays together.”
“My mom always says, ‘The family that prays together, stays together,’” she said. “This is my school family so I liked being able to pray together as a family.”
“It was beautiful to hear the children pray,” said parent Ieda Leal, who attended the rally with her daughter’s eighth-grade class from Our Lady of Perpetual Help.
Leal liked the idea of the rally and the opportunity it gave children to “reflect and thank God for what we have.”
Photos © Ed Wilkinson and Marie Elena Giossi