Story and Photos By Christine Bordelon, Clarion Herald
First praying for the conversion of Russia and now for anyone who requests prayers, members of the Our Lady of Fatima Monday Night Rosary Group have been faithful prayer warriors every Monday night for 60 years.
Rose Stout, the current leader of the rosary group, has been a member since 2003. She said this group currently meets at 7 p.m., alternating at members’ homes, but it sometimes prays at assisted living facilities and elsewhere where members might be staying at the time.
From what long-time members can recall, this group evolved from Florence Cummings, a St. Christopher parishioner, obtaining a traveling Pilgrim Virgin statue of Mary from local Catholic Mary Bridges. In an answer to her prayers, Bridges was distributing the statues to any parish that wanted to start a rosary group.
Cummings led the group for many years, and when she couldn’t continue, Rita Burch took over. When Burch became infirmed, Stout began coordinating meetings and eventually became the new leader.
“We’ve had some beautiful ladies participate in this group,” Stout said.
“We’ve lost some members, but we still pray for their souls,” long-time member Nina Roser said.
Dedication of members
It was Roser’s sister-in-law Adelaide Roser DeLatte (now deceased) who knew Florence Cummings from their childhood St. Henry’s Parish in New Orleans and got Roser involved. DeLatte’s daughter, Dianne Chieffo, used to drive her mother to the weekly rosary and still attends when she can.
Roser recalls the rosary being the only prayers when Cummings held the early meetings. That changed when Burch took the lead and brought a projector to show rosary videos as they prayed and added additional prayers. Burch died in 2015 at age 94 after years of leading the group.
“We’ve since added even more prayers but have always had a book to sign in for people who needed prayers,” said Roser, who inherited Cummings’ Virgin Mary statue. “It makes you feel so good. Members become like family. We worry about members’ problems and pray for them. We all feel that way.”
Roser said Josie Hememway, who lived to be 104 and had a son who was a priest (Father Richard Hememway), was “a very faithful member.” Father Hememway died at a young age of cancer.
Another longtime member, Susie Vincent, remembers when Burch led the group and cherishes the ability to share faith with her rosary partners.
“The ladies are so nice,” Vincent said. “Everyone has their own worries, and this is very supportive. It’s important to get together and pray together, not just for each other but
for others who need our prayers.”
On a recent Monday at the Metairie home of Carol Bernadas, eight members sang a song and recited prayers from a prayer card approved by former New Orleans Archbishop Joseph Rummel in 1962.
The group opened and closed the meeting with a song to Our Lady of Fatima, prayed a prayer to the “Blessed Lady of Fatima,” prayed the joyful mysteries of the rosary and finished with a plea to Our Lady of Fatima to “help us spread your message.”
They pray for all whose names are written in a notebook that dates to the early 1960s. But the notebook grows weekly as new names are added of those who they know are sick or in the hospital or who call for prayers. Each week, they pray a special prayer for those who will die the evening of their rosary.
“People will call, and we put them on the list,” Stout said.
“We have brought babies into the world with our prayers,” said member Rose Fogarty about a friend’s daughter who couldn’t get pregnant for eight years but did after her name was put on the prayer list. She also asked for prayers for her grandchild who underwent surgery.
“We feel like they’re benefitting from our prayers,” Stout said. “All of us have been there through illness, and this gives us strength.”
A final Hail Mary is prayed each week for the host home and its occupants.
In addition to the Monday night rosary, the group has Masses celebrated for people on the prayer list, participates in the annual local Rosary Congress and prays the rosary at members’ funerals when asked.
Group members have a special friendship.
“There is something about our relationship with each other; we know we are there for each other always,” said member Maya Irimpen, who, with her husband Anand, hosts the group the first Monday of every month at their home. “We are friends in the Blessed Mother; we are friends in Christ. Any time the Blessed Mother is there praying with you, it is a different environment. We know we are not just saying words. We are praying with her and through her.”
Originally from India, the Irimpens moved to New Orleans from New York when their son, Mathew, was only 2 years old. He is now 28. They initially worried about their new home until they met a member of the Fatima Rosary Group, Lucille Carbo, while attending Mass at St. Catherine of Siena Church. Carbo was playful with her son.
“Lucille invited us to attend a rosary at her house,” Irimpen said. “We came from New York and thought this was a pagan city. She used to host the rosary, and Rita Burch used to lead it. We were very young when it started, and we would take my son Mathew to the rosary.”
As the years passed and her son was active in extracurriculars, the Irimpens decided it would be easier to host the rosary monthly at their home on the first Monday.
“It was like the Blessed Mother came over,” she said. “The rosary became a big part of our lives. When Rita died, Mathew sang the ‘Ave Maria’ at her funeral. … The Blessed Mother brought so much constancy and continuity, compassion and love – everything we try to be as Catholic human beings – to us. I think this rosary should go on and on.”
Stout prays that, too.
“We’re trying so hard to keep the group together. Our constant effort has made us feel like that by praying for others we are doing a small part for our community.”
To find out more about this group, call Stout at 835-2015.
Christine Bordelon can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.