By Beth Donze, Clarion Herald
Students at Our Lady of Perpetual Help, Belle Chasse, conducted a Living Rosary, aided by the giant rosary pictured above, on Oct. 3 (Photo by Beth Donze)
Two years ago, a story airing on the Eternal Word Television Network (EWTN) caught the attention of Mary Riser, a Catholic grandmother living in Monroe, Louisiana.
The report described how on the night of Jan. 15, 1978, serial killer Ted Bundy had broken into a Florida State University sorority house and had brutally assaulted four young women, killing two of them and severely injuring two others.
Yet miraculously, when Bundy opened the door to one young woman’s bedroom and stared straight into her face as she lay in bed, the killer dropped his weapon and ran from the scene, leaving her unharmed.
When the young woman recounted her traumatic experience to a Catholic priest, she said she had promised her mother before going off to college that she would pray a nightly rosary “for protection” at bedtime.
On the night of the attack, it just so happened that she had fallen asleep while praying the rosary and was still holding the beads when Bundy opened her bedroom door.
Upon his capture, Bundy revealed that when he saw the young woman, he had every intention of killing her, but a “mysterious force” had made him freeze, drop his weapon and flee.
Reminded of the rosary’s saving power after viewing the EWTN program, Riser – the grandmother from Monroe – heard the Blessed Mother’s voice asking her to “put a rosary in every backpack” of her granddaughter’s classroom at Jesus the Good Shepherd Catholic School. The “backpack rosary” idea snowballed, ultimately putting rosaries into the school bags of about 1,000 Monroe-area children and teens.
Now, Our Lady of Perpetual Help School in Belle Chasse is taking Riser’s idea to the Archdiocese of New Orleans. In an effort led by Cecilia “C.C.” Merritt, OLPH’s CRE, parishioner-sewn pouches containing a rosary, a printout of rosary prayers, the “Prayer for Students” and a prayer card depicting Our Lady of Perpetual Help were given to all students after their Oct. 3 Living Rosary.
“You don’t need me to tell you about the things that are happening in our world – they’re becoming progressively worse – and we cannot combat that without God’s guidance,” said Father Kyle Dave, OLPH’s pastor, addressing students before the rosary distribution.
Father Dave, who retold the story of the young woman left unharmed by Ted Bundy, urged the young people to pray the rosary for victory in the ongoing “spiritual war” between the forces of good and evil.
“It’s a war for souls, a war for lives, for the dignity of human beings on every level. There’s so much violence; there’s so much hatred,” Father Dave said, noting that the intercession of “Mother Mary” is powerful: she is the first person “to receive God’s spirit that allowed the Word of God to become flesh and dwell in our midst,” he said.
In addition to students at OLPH School, the parish gave a backpack rosary to every child and teen in its parish school of religion, high school of religion and confirmation classes.
“I just think it’s cool that we get to have these in every single backpack – everyone gets a rosary to protect us and make us stay safe,” said Chloe Miller, an OLPH seventh grader. “It’s just a way to connect with God and talk to him.”
Sixth grader Zoe Nolan said the rosary is a source of comfort to her because her late great grandmother prayed one every day.
“When she died, I started praying it more and more. It’s like she’s still there with me,” Zoe said.
“We’re all protected by God and the Mother of God through the rosary,” Zoe added. “Everybody is protected, supported and comforted and knows that they’ll always be safe under God’s love.”
OLPH challenges all schools and parishes to provide a rosary in every backpack. For details on making the rosary pouches, call 394-0314 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Beth Donze cane be reached at email@example.com.