School children sang the praises of the Blessed Mother as they prayed the Rosary in union with each other and their diocesan bishop at the Co-Cathedral of St. Joseph, Prospect Heights, Oct. 11.
“It’s good that we’re here today to show the world that we believe – we believe in God and we believe in Mary, the Mother of God, the Mother of Jesus Christ,” said Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio, who led the annual Rosary Rally for diocesan students.
Close to 1,000 girls and boys from 11 Catholic academies and schools in Brooklyn and Queens attended the rally, which was televised live on NET-TV. They were united in prayer with peers who were also participating in rallies in their academies and schools.
Walking up the main aisle of the co-cathedral that morning, Ryan Mars was excited to be carrying a family heirloom in his hands: rosary beads from Italy that belonged to his late grandfather.
“My mom has had them a long time and she gave them to me because she heard I was going to the Rosary Rally,” said Mars, a sixth grader from St. Francis of Assisi Catholic Academy, Crown Heights.
He held the Rosary between his fingers with reverence, moving from bead to bead as he recited the prayers along with the bishop and his peers in the pews. Students read the Scripture passages that related to the Glorious Mysteries, and the prayers of intercession at the service.
Organized by the diocesan Catholic Schools Office, the event enables Catholic school children to see that they are part of something larger than their school or parish community. It is also a chance for them to grow in relationship with the Blessed Mother and her Son, especially in this month dedicated to the Rosary.
“We have to develop their spirituality, and this is all part of that spirituality – a love for the Rosary, an appreciation for the Blessed Mother in their own lives and a nurturing of their relationship with Jesus Christ,” said Brother Ralph Darmento, F.S.C., deputy superintendent of schools.
Participating in the Rosary Rally were students from the following academies and schools: Our Lady of Perpetual Help, South Ozone Park; Holy Angels, Bay Ridge; Queen of the Rosary, Williamsburg; St. Bernard, Mill Basin; SS. Joachim and Anne, Queens Village; St. Francis of Assisi, Crown Heights; St. Gregory the Great, Flatbush; Our Lady of Guadalupe, Dyker Heights; St. Joan of Arc, Jackson Heights; Our Lady of Perpetual Help, Sunset Park and St. Pancras, Glendale.
Children were welcomed to the co-cathedral by Msgr. Kieran Harrington, rector, who took time to explain what a cathedral is, and also discuss the artwork, from the stained-glass windows imagining scenes in the life of St. Joseph, to murals depicting Marian apparitions at Fatima and Lourdes.
Sixth grader Yesslynn Salazar from Our Lady of Perpetual Help, Sunset Park, looked with awe at the murals of the Blessed Mother, who is well loved and respected in her home.
She said her parents grew up praying the Rosary, and they are instilling the same devotion in her and her younger brother; the four of them gather to pray the Rosary as a family once a week.
“That’s something very special to me,” she said.
Bishop DiMarzio told the boys and girls how very special they are to the Blessed Mother in his homily.
“Mary taught the Rosary to the world through the eyes and ears of children,” he noted, pointing to the examples of St. Bernadette in Lourdes and the three shepherd children in Fatima. In both instances, Mary encouraged the children to tell others to pray the Rosary.
“What Mary wanted was the conversion of sinners,” he said. “We still pray for that.”
Recalling the massacre in Las Vegas and other acts of evil in the world today, the bishop spoke of the importance of prayer, which keeps people on the right path and helps them stay close to God.
“That’s why we come to pray the Rosary, to ask Mary to help us to do the right thing,” he said.
“We know she can speak to Jesus, Her Son, and God, the Father, to give us what we need to be better or the help we need.”
The bishop encouraged the children to set aside 10 minutes everyday to pray the Rosary. And many of them already pray at least a decade of the Rosary as a regular part of their school day.
Eighth grader Yudraj Tiwari Jr. said he looks forward to the communal prayers that start the school day at Our Lady of Perpetual Help in South Ozone Park.
“When we pray the ‘Hail Mary,’ I feel she (Mary) actually guides me,” he said. “It calms me down and helps me get through the day and make better decisions.”
Juliana Mari, a fifth grader from St. Joan of Arc, said she not only likes to pray with her classmates in school, but also by herself at home.
“I know that whenever I pray, God will hear my prayers. … I feel very inspired by that,” she said.
Planting the Seeds
Before sending children back to school, Bishop DiMarzio took the opportunity to speak to them about the diocesan Year of Vocations.
“Vocations are God’s call to do something special with our lives,” he said, explaining that many people are called to the vocation of marriage.
“But some people,” he said, “are called to be priests, sisters and brothers. That’s what we want you to pray about and think about.”
His words struck a chord with Ashmey Dumervil an eighth grader from St. Francis of Assisi, Crown Heights, who realized that she and her peers at the rally are not much older than Mary was when God asked her to be the Mother of Jesus.
“The fact that Mary was so young when she was chosen by God really shows how we’re never too young or too old to follow the path that God wants us to go through in life,” she said.
(Photos: Melissa Enaje and Matthew O’Connor)