The diversity of Catholics in New Orleans was evident Oct. 25 at St. Paul the Apostle Church in Gentilly as members of the African-American, Vietnamese, Latino and others came together to recite the Glorious Mysteries of the rosary and to celebrate Mass.
The fifth annual rosary was the culmination of a month-long parish celebration promoting prayers to the Blessed Mother. An added element this year was a relic for veneration of Our Lady of Guadalupe, courtesy of the Mission for the Love of God Worldwide ministries.
“The month of October is the rosary month, and we wanted to have it coincide with Our Lady of Guadalupe,” parish devotional committee member Julia Collins said. “The relic is for the conversion of souls and the eradication of violence.”
Brings community together
Collins said she became involved with the event at its inception in 2007. Father Alfred Ayem, St. Paul’s pastor since 2006, had launched praying the rosary before weekday Masses as a way to bring the Hurricane Katrina-ravaged area together. It was so well received that he extended it to weekend Masses.
Noticing a positive impact on parishioners, Father Ayem wanted to do more and approached the parish liturgy committee and pastoral council about a month-long rosary in October that concluded with a community rosary and Mass.
“It builds up the parish and the community,” Father Ayem said about the October rosary. “It brought the community together for a common purpose and even more so with other participating parishes. … My hope is that many young people will embrace this traditional devotion of the church and will actively participate.”
Parishioner Irma Duckworth opened the Oct. 25 event with a welcome address that encouraged everyone to pray the rosary daily.
“The Holy Rosary is a perfect prayer because within it reveals the story of salvation,” Duckworth said, as well as the life of Jesus and Mary. “I personally believe if we need peace, joy and happiness, we should send our petition to Jesus through his Mother Mary. In times like these, we should pray the rosary daily, and God will answer our prayers.”
Participants from neighboring Catholic churches, the Sisters of the Holy Family and St. Paul the Apostle parishioners processed with flowers to place before a bronze, African-style statue of Mary near the altar.
Various groups took turns reciting decades of the rosary, starting with the Sisters of the Holy Family leading the Resurrection; the Haitian Catholic Community leading the Ascension; the choral recitation of the Descent of the Holy Spirit by members of Mary Queen of Vietnam Church; members of Blessed Francis Xavier Seelos praying Spanish Our Fathers and Hail Marys in the fourth Glorious Mystery, the Assumption; and everyone joining in the Coronation.
At the conclusion, prayers were offered for the beatification of Mother Henriette Delille – foundress of the Sisters of the Holy Family who was declared venerable in 2010 – world peace and those serving the military.
When asked if she knew of any answered prayers in the parish as a result of the devotion to Mary, Collins pointed out an interesting occurrence at the church when they were looking for a cloth to cover a table on which to place rosaries. Shirley Alexander, a St. Paul the Apostle parishioner for 60 years, found a unique tablecloth among the vestments.
“We were looking for something to cover this table. I saw it and didn’t think we could use it because it had writing on it,” Alexander said. “Then I opened it up, and it said ‘Queen of Heaven, Pray for Us’ on it. I said, ‘Yes, we can use it!”
Christine Bordelon can be reached at cbordelon@clarion herald.org.