Spotlight on Mary, rosary at DVD screening (with slideshow)

Photo Caption: A combined choir of women religious sing at the “Rosary Stars” prayer service at St. Mary’s Cathedral on May 3.

By: By Tom Dermody

There was a Hollywood actor in St. Mary’s Cathedral Sunday, but the spotlight was squarely on the Blessed Virgin Mary and the rosary.

“Although always put to a test, I continue to trust in the power of Our Blessed Mother’s rosary,” said J. Omar Castro, who has appeared in nine feature films and 14 television series, including “Without a Trace.”

“It has truly changed my life.”

Castro is one of 21 young celebrities featured in a newly released DVD called “Rosary Stars: Praying the Gospel.” He gave a witness talk at the cathedral Sunday during a regional screening of one section of the educational and devotional video.

“You are known as a very Marian diocese,” said Father John Phalen, CSC, president of Holy Cross Family Ministries, in welcoming the nearly 500 people who later joined in praying a decade of the rosary along with the DVD. “Rosary Stars” is produced by Family Theater Productions, a division of Holy Cross Family Ministries.

“This diocese is grounded in devotion to the Blessed Mother and love for family prayer, especially the rosary,” agreed Bishop Daniel R. Jenky, CSC. Bishop Jenky thanked Holy Cross Family Ministries for its assistance in helping the diocese prepare for a special Year of the Rosary set to begin Aug. 15.

Sunday’s prayer service, which also featured Marian hymns led by a choir of more than two dozen religious women representing several communities, was part of the preparation for that year.

In his witness talk, delivered in both Spanish and English, Castro spoke of the “faith-driven focus” that has guided him in life and as he pursued his acting career.

“I strive to remind myself that things happen for a reason and in God’s perfect timing,” said Castro, who was born in New Orleans to Honduran immigrant parents. He told of his years of struggle in Los Angeles prior to realizing steady acting work, including in recent episodes of “CSI” and the film “Bad Lieutenant” opposite Nicolas Cage. Before his break, Castro waited tables, bartended, and slept on the floor of a limousine company for a time.

While it can be frightening to trust in God’s plan, not your own, Castro said he adopted an outlook of “If it’s meant for me, it truly will be, and if it’s not it’s because it’s not in God’s plan for me.”

Like all celebrities on the “Rosary Stars” project, Castro offers a personal reflection on the video prior to leading a decade of the prayer. In his reflection, played on large screens set up in the cathedral sanctuary, he recalled the pain of his parents’ divorce when he was 8 years old.

“As much as I prayed and prayed and prayed,” he said, “things weren’t changing the way I thought they should change.”

He called the rosary “an effective tool to further deepen my faith and develop a trust in everything happening for a reason, in God’s perfect time.” Following the prayer service, Castro signed copies of the DVD during a reception at the Spalding Pastoral Center.

Among those attending the event was Debra Cassens, who came with a group from St. Patrick’s Parish in Galesburg. She told The Catholic Post she has prayed the rosary every day since 2004. She uses the devotion to pray for people she knows who are suffering or in need.

“I figure if Mary gave up her only Son, it’s the least I can do,” said Cassens.

Holy Cross Family Ministries was founded by Father Patrick Peyton, CSC, a Catholic media pioneer known as “the rosary priest” for the way he promoted its use.

Looking at a cathedral crowded with people of all ages from throughout the diocese, Father Phalen said, “I’m sure Father Peyton is glad at this moment.”

The “Rosary Stars” DVD is designed to promote a better understanding and appreciation of the rosary and its mysteries, especially among teenagers, young adults and families. Other celebrities featured include Major Leage baseball players Jeff Suppan and Mike Sweeney and former Miss America Ali Landry.

Editor’s note — More information on the DVD, including a trailer and information on purchasing, can be found online at

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