700 show love for Our Lady

By: By Tom Dermody

An 18-month effort to reinvigorate use of the rosary was given a prayerful and emotional launch Sunday during a Diocesan Rosary Festival that demonstrated deep love for the Blessed Virgin Mary.

“As a church, we love Our Lady,” said Bishop Daniel R. Jenky, CSC, in welcoming about 700 people to the event officially opening a time of preparation for a planned Year of the Most Holy Rosary in the diocese beginning next August.

That love was expressed in song, testimony and prayer throughout the hourlong festival, but perhaps at no time more dramatically than when a statue of Mary was carried through the cathedral aisles by six tuxedo-clad students from Peoria Notre Dame High School. The cathedral lights were dimmed, candles given each attendee upon arrival were lit, and as the hymn “Immaculate Mary” was sung all in the assembly raised their candles during repeated, robust choruses of “Ave, Ave, Ave Maria!”

“It was very moving emotionally,” said Melissa Trauner, a member of Holy Trinity Parish in Bloomington. “Beautiful, very traditional,” agreed her husband, Bill.

The Trauners attended the event with their 10-year-old son, Will, who was among 11 elementary school children from throughout the diocese chosen to lead a decade of a living rosary during the festival.

Sharing a personal story of what the rosary has meant in his life was Hollywood actor Chris Kramer.

Kramer, who has appeared in television shows such as “Jericho” and starred for three years in a Canadian series called “The Collector,” said the rosary helped bring him back to the Catholic Church after 14 years away.

“Dad prayed me to sleep every night” as a young boy with the rosary, said Kramer, whose visit was coordinated through Holy Cross Family Ministries. Kramer is one of several celebrities promoting the rosary in a new DVD called “Rosary Stars: Praying the Gospel” being produced by Holy Cross Family Ministries and scheduled for a regional premiere in Peoria next May.

At age 22, while Kramer was living in Vancouver and struggling to begin his acting career, he was having difficulties falling asleep. One night, recalling his Dad’s practice, “I just started praying Hail Marys,” he told the group.

Kramer began sleeping better, and in a couple of weeks while driving experienced a moment of conversion when he realized “God is real and with me.” Later he learned that his father, who had returned to the church nine months earlier after his own separation, had been praying for him.

Now the rosary and regular confession are major parts of the actor’s faith life.

“It’s all about discipline,” Kramer told the assembly. “If I don’t feel like (praying the rosary), I just do it,” he said. “I’ve never prayed a rosary and thought it wasn’t worth it.”

He encouraged prayer for one another because “God can work miracles.”

“I hope you stay attached to the rosary,” he told the group. “Introduce it to people. Talk about it.”

Bishop Jenky recalled the phrase made famous by Father Patrick Peyton, the “rosary priest” who founded Holy Cross Family Ministries: “The family that prays together, stays together.”

“If that’s true for individual families,” said Bishop Jenky, “it’s certainly true for the family of the church.” He asked that Mary keep all in the diocese “under her prayerful protection” and that she “pray with us and for us” during the festival and whenever we turn to her, especially with the rosary.

The festival also included a litany to the Blessed Mother led by two members of the Sisters of St. Francis of the Immaculate Conception, Sister M. Virginia Butkovich and Sister Rose Madonna Gibbons.

The special Year of the Most Holy Rosary is scheduled to take place in the Diocese of Peoria from Aug. 15, 2009, to May 30, 2010. A major culminating diocese-wide celebration is being planned for Sunday, May 2, 2010, at the Peoria Civic Center.

In announcing the renewed focus on the rosary last August, Bishop Jenky said the devotion “has been strength in time of temptation and a sure comfort through the trials of life.”

“Innumerable souls have found refuge at the ‘hour of death’ by recourse to their ‘beads,’ he wrote. “Through the prayers of the rosary, Our Lady continues to lead her children to a deeper relationship with her Son, the Son of God.”

The bishop has asked pastors, parish and school leaders, and families to use the year of preparation to consider how to make the rosary “a more essential part of our lives.”

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