Rosary rally for police draws nearly 100 to downtown Ottawa park on April 17

Father Gary Caster leads about 100 people in the rosary and other prayers for the protection and guidance of police on April 17 at Washington Square Park in Ottawa. The public square rosary was one of many across the United States on a theme planned months in advance by the organization America Needs Fatima. (The Catholic Post, Peoria/Tom Dermody)

OTTAWA — Before leading nearly 100 people who gathered April 17 in Washington Square Park here in the rosary and other prayers for the protection and guidance of police, Father Gary Caster acknowledged this is “a difficult time in our country.”

The April rally was one of many across the United States whose theme was set prior to the start of 2021 by the group America Needs Fatima. The organization has long sponsored public square rosaries in October to commemorate the 1917 appearances of the Virgin Mary in Portugal and the “miracle of the sun” witnessed by tens of thousands.

Two members of the Ottawa City Police Department are seen in the background as Debbie Heimsoth prays the rosary on April 17 at Washington Square Park in Ottawa. Heimsoth is a member of the Ottawa Catholic Parishes’ Morning Bible Study group that helped plan the event to pray for police and other first responders. (The Catholic Post, Peoria/Tom Dermody)

This year the national group began an “America Needs Prayer” campaign with monthly intentions ranging from rallies for life in January to a “Keep Christ in Christmas” intention in December.

With several high profile cases involving police actions dominating the national news, the timing of April’s “Rosary Rally in Honor of Police and First Responders” drew a larger-than-normal crowd to Ottawa’s downtown park at noon on Saturday.

“We need to pray for our civic leaders, always,” said Father Caster, parochial vicar for St. Columba and St. Francis of Assisi parishes in Ottawa. “We need to be upstanding citizens, always. We need to pray for those who serve us, always. And we need to be instruments of justice, peace and freedom.”

HOSTED BY BIBLE STUDY GROUP

The local rally was hosted by the Ottawa Catholic Parishes’ Morning Bible Study Group. Member Jessica Solomon received a postcard from America Needs Fatima during Lent regarding the April rally theme and eventually brought it to the attention of her study group and parish priests.

“We have a lot of friends and family members who are police,” she told The Catholic Post prior to the rally. “I feel very strongly about supporting them.”

Among those in the crowd Saturday was Amanda Wood, who had a very personal reason for attending. Her son, Charles, had just graduated from police school the day before and is now a LaSalle County sheriff’s deputy.

She called the rally “heaven sent.”

Ottawa storyteller Bill Myers reads the police-themed poem “The Final Inspection.” (The Catholic Post/Tom Dermody)

In addition to the Joyful Mysteries of the rosary, the hourlong program also included the Angelus, litanies to the Blessed Virgin Mary and St. Michael the Archangel, and Marian hymns. But before the prayers began, Ottawa storyteller Bill Myers read the poem “The Final Inspection” (author unknown), which tells of a police officer’s encounter with God at the gates of heaven.

“I dedicate this to the men and women of the police department, locally and all over the country,” said Myers.

About midway through the program, two members of the Ottawa City Police Department — Officer Lou Riva and Corporal Jim Bell — joined in, standing at the back of the crowd. Both expressed to The Catholic Post their appreciation for the prayer support.

In his closing remarks, Father Caster thanked Solomon and those who planned the event, and acknowledged the presence of the officers.

“It’s a great idea to pray for the men and women who serve,” said Father Caster, noting their work often goes unnoticed. “Officers, thank you for being here. God bless you for what you do. May God bless all those you serve.”

EDITOR’S NOTE: More photos from the public square rosary have been posted to The Catholic Post’s site on Facebook. 

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