By Beth Donze
Every Wednesday after the 3 p.m. dismissal, more than two dozen St. Edward the Confessor students voluntarily remain on campus to pray the rosary together in church.
Sitting in close proximity to their focal point – a huge statue of the Blessed Mother – the youngsters fill the aisle seats of St. Edward’s back pews, some accompanied by their parents and siblings.
In the 15 minutes leading up to the rosary’s 3:15 p.m. start time, volunteers are recruited to announce the five Mysteries and hold up posters related to each.
Other helpers place paper circles in a row down the center aisle. Together, the rounded markers represent a full decade of Hail Marys (along with the decade-dividing Glory Be and Our Father) and form a path down which the Mystery leaders walk as each prayer is recited.
“They’re aware of the Blessed Mother because they’re in Catholic school, but we are hoping to cultivate an even deeper devotion to her,” said Nancy Guy, administrative assistant at St. Edward School, who revived the Children’s Rosary Ministry in 2015 following a five-year hiatus.
“We remind the children that the Blessed Mother is our mother in heaven, just as they have a mother here on earth,” Guy said. “The Blessed Mother doesn’t want anything to happen to them, just like their own mothers. She’s our protection. I try to instill that in them when we say the rosary.”
Upon entering church, the young participants, who hail from kindergarten through seventh grade, visit their ministry’s banner-covered prayer table to sign a rosary-themed card – telling the future card recipient that a Wednesday afternoon rosary was being dedicated to him or her.
Right before the rosary begins, Guy asks attendees to announce their own personal intentions. One recent Wednesday, their prayer requests ranged from prayers for unborn babies to the healing of sick pets.
“It’s a chance to pray for all those kids and grown-ups out there that go through a bunch of stuff – go to hospitals non-stop and take different medicines,” said third grader Bernadette Theriot, who has attended the weekly rosary since first grade. “I love the Hail Mary because I know it really good, and it helps me a lot,” Bernadette added.
Third grader Tyler Tassin said he enjoys “getting together to talk to God.”
“Every time we pray the rosary we get even closer to God,” Tyler said.
The children’s rosary was founded as a weekly nighttime activity in the early 2000s by MiMi Gibson, a St. Edward parent who wanted to provide a regular faith-based activity for younger children to complement Metairie parish’s well-established CYO group.
By 2010, the number of rosary participants had dwindled – possibly due to its evening start-up time – and the gatherings went on an extended hiatus. Guy, whose own children had benefitted from St. Edward’s original children’s rosary, revived the ministry in 2015, hoping its new time of 3:15 p.m. would make it more convenient for students involved in aftercare and club activities, and for parents who wished to pray the rosary with their children at school pick-up time.
Parents have the option to remain in church for the rosary or pick up their children afterward, Guy said.
The other adult rosary helpers are Elaine Warriner, a St. Edward parishioner and retired teacher, who began co-leading the group in 2016; and Joanna Whitcomb, St. Edward’s parish secretary, who offers suggestions on parishioners who might be in need of the rosary’s healing prayers.
“We always have extra rosaries,” Guy said. “Whoever wants one can take one and keep it.”
All ages are welcome to pray the rosary at St. Edward Church, 4921 West Metairie Ave., on school Wednesdays at 3:15 p.m. For more information, call Guy at 888-6353.