ROSEDALE — Father Andrew Struzzieri, the pastor at St. Clare Church, Rosedale, says it’s his devotion to Mother Mary that keeps him strong through ultimate hardship.
“Mary is the source of peace. Sometimes, I think I have big battles to fight — but they turn out to not be battles at all,” Father Struzzieri said. “Instead, she takes over, and brings me closer to the heart of Jesus–and I hope through me, other people.”
The pastor of seven years has been battling with kidney cancer on and off for at least a decade.
“Praying the Rosary helps me to accept my own physical and health struggles, and to use it to get closer to Jesus.”
Father Andrew’s and other St. Clare church parishioners’ intentions were lifted up at the parish’s annual Rosary Rally on Oct. 12, on the parish steps.
With October as the month of the Holy Rosary, around 40 faithful gathered to pray for healing, discernment and vocations, as cars and buses zoomed by.
The multilingual Rosary prayer included decades in Spanish, Tagalog, French and Nigerian Igbo language. The service ended with a prayer of total consecration honoring the Immaculate Mother, as written by St. Maximilian Kolbe.
“Praying the rosary encourages us to increase our devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary, especially as we celebrate her apparitions at Fatima,” said Father Louismary Ocha, the new parochial vicar at St. Clare’s. “So we encourage people to pray in obedience, for us to have peace in the world and for the sanctification of souls.”
Parishioner Stella Zacharias, a longtime Rosedale resident, has been organizing the rosary rallies for at least 10 years. She has handmade hundreds of rosaries for the parish from her home.
“I hope that we spread the message to all of these people driving by, so that they know the importance and power of praying the Rosary,” she said, while inviting participants to join her for monthly prayers at the church. “Jesus is there on the altar waiting for you.”
Zacharias is also a captain for America Needs Fatima, a national campaign that promotes the message of Our Lady of Fatima through public prayer rallies, Rosary-making and distributions, and bring Fatima statues to people’s homes.
“I wanted to do something with my home church — it started with just getting everybody together to say some prayers,” she said. “Then I got into making rosaries every year, and became more involved…starting prayer rallies and giving away rosaries every year. It’s helped me become stronger, as I am getting older.”
Through Zacharias suffers from carpal tunnel and arthritis, she says she wants to keep making rosaries for the church, and hopes to get more young people involved.
Some youth attended the rosary rally, including 10-year-old Ifeanyi Ezissi, who came to pray with his dad and brothers.
“I like to pray the Rosary, so that everyone I love can be well… I pray for my family, my friends and my school,” Ezissi said.
“It’s important to pray [the Rosary], so that we could stay in peace with Jesus,” said younger brother Kene.
Other St. Clare parishioners expressed their devotion to the Holy Rosary, and to its healing power.
“Every time that I pray a rosary, I believe a miracle happens,” said parishioner Jacqueline Pierre, who also shared that her daughter and family miraculously survived a recent accident because they had a rosary in their car. “I always believe that when you pray the rosary every day, it can move mountains.”
Joyce Barber, president for the Rosary Society at St. Clare, says that commitment to this powerful prayer and to the intercession of Mother Mary makes all things new for the church.
“Just by praying the Rosary, we have seen so many new things happening with our church family,” Barber said. “We recently held a healing Mass for Fr. Andrew [Struzzieri] because he’s going through so much, and he has been getting stronger. We see the results, the healing miracle, of our devotion. Mary ignites our hearts, our faith, and she gives us strength.”