Friday morning rosary walks pray for neighbors around St. Ann Church, Peoria

Father Jeremy Freehill, administrator of St. Ann Parish in Peoria, leads a rosary walk through the church neighborhood on the city's south side on Sept. 4. Carrying the cross is Tom Wiegand while holding the Mary statue is Terry Davis. (The Catholic Post/Tom Dermody)

How long does it take to pray the rosary?

For those who take part in rosary walks every Friday morning in the blocks surrounding St. Ann Church on Peoria’s south side, the answer depends on how many neighbors they encounter as they walk and pray.

“We want them to know St. Ann is here whatever their needs may be, hopefully religious needs, and we’d be happy to have them in our parish family,” said parishioner Tom Wiegand, who carried a processional cross as he led a group of about a dozen through the neighborhood following the 7:30 a.m. Mass on Sept. 4.

The group makes its way down Louisa Street and back to St. Ann Church after the neighborhood rosary walk on Sept. 4. (The Catholic Post/Tom Dermody)

The rosary walks, initiated by previous St. Ann priests — including Father Don Roszkowski, who led them this Lent when the COVID-19 pandemic resulted in the closing of churches — are being embraced with passion by newly appointed administrator Father Jeremy Freehill.

“Passion is the word for it,” said Wiegand. “He’s really making attempts to reach out to the community,” including walking the neighborhood on his own every day as well.

TRUSTING GOD FOR CHANGE

The area around St. Ann is among the economically poorest in the state — the “epicenter” of poverty in central Illinois, said Wiegand, a business owner in that section of the city. As he walks and prays, Wiegand trusts God for the changes necessary to make the former blue collar neighborhood “a peaceful place where people can raise their families and again prosper.”

Among the parish outreaches is an expanding “Garden of Hope” west of the church, which provides free, healthy produce and is tended by parish volunteers under the coordination of gardening experts from OSF HealthCare.

Father Freehill knows that not everyone they encounter on their rosary walks are Catholic, but says “they’re part of the parish whether they realize it or not” by living in the shadow of St. Ann’s three domed towers at 1010 S. Louisa St.

All are welcome to join the walks, which always follow the 7:30 a.m. Mass on Friday. Several of the participants in the Sept. 4 walk were from neighboring parishes. Two were Bradley University students.

“Striking up conversations has helped with discovering families who used to belong to St. Boniface and St. John parishes (which merged in 1995 to form St. Ann) and provides an excellent opportunity to invite them to come home to St Ann’s,” said rosary participant Terry Davis, who carried a statue of Mary on the walk.

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