During the pandemic, a group of parishioners from Nativity Parish, Fair Haven, would gather outdoors to pray the Rosary. Photo from Nativity Parish website
During the pandemic, a group of parishioners from Nativity Parish, Fair Haven, would gather outdoors to pray the Rosary. Photo from Nativity Parish website

This October, parishes around the Trenton Diocese will provide countless faithful with the time and place to share the simple and repeated prayers of the Holy Rosary which connect them to the journey of Jesus and his Blessed Mother.

Throughout this month dedicated to the Rosary, they will gather in groups, as they do throughout the year, to participate in the devotion. In doing so, those interviewed for this story said their devotion is a spiritual mainstay as they strive to keep faith, care and concern for others in the forefront of their lives.

ICONIC SYMBOL

The month of the Rosary was instituted to honor the Blessed Virgin Mary in gratitude for the protection she gives the Church in answer to praying the Rosary. And indeed, there is a strong sense that in good times and bad, the Rosary binds heaven and earth with a cord of comfort and care.

Among the pastors who encourage their parishioners to make the most of that connection are Father James Grogan of Nativity Parish, Fair Haven, and Msgr. Sam A. Sirianni, rector of St. Robert Bellarmine Co-Cathedral, Freehold.

The focus on intentional prayer in sacred space is what draws a significant number of parishioners to Nativity’s three Rosary prayer groups, Father Grogan said. “Each of the groups has a wonderful list of intentions they pray for,” said Father Grogan, adding that such lists add to the “joy of the Rosary each week – whether you are praying for an increase of vocations,” for the health of someone who is ill or “whatever intentions might unfold over the week.”

Adding communal prayer makes it even a “much more powerful experience,” he said. “When we gather in a chapel to pray, we are opening the treasury of God’s graces.”

This summer, St. Robert Bellarmine Co-Cathedral extended an open invitation to pray the Rosary all night on livestream. Starting between 6 and 6:30 p.m. and ending at 6 a.m., the Rosary is recited every 20 minutes throughout the night and early morning hours.

“It’s a way of inviting people into their churches,” said Msgr. Sirianni, who said he got the idea from Father Daniel Peirano shortly after he arrived as the new pastor of St. Thomas More Parish in neighboring Manalapan.

“Reaction has been positive,” said Msgr. Sirianni. “An average of between 200 and 300 people view nightly. I think people are drawn to it because, at the end of a busy or stressful day, it’s time to sit back and let prayer surround you.”

KEEPING FAITH

Established in the 1930s, the primary purpose of the Altar-Rosary society is to honor the Blessed Mother and secure her patronage by reciting the Rosary. Assisting with care of the altar, donating to worthy charities and passing on the faith are also woven into the framework.

Josie Esquivel, president of the Altar-Rosary Society at Sacred Heart Parish in Bay Head, and Jan Guthrie, co-president with Rae Rasi, of the Altar-Rosary Society in St. Anthony of Padua Parish, Hightstown, shared how honoring the Blessed Virgin Mary in prayer is “the very important point of it all.”

“I found a quote from St. Therese of Lisieux that the Rosary is a long chain that links heaven and earth – one end of it is in our hands, the other end is in the hands of the Holy Virgin,” Esquivel said, noting that meeting for prayer monthly, from September through June, “giving to our loyal charities” in her name and assisting with altar care are very important to the 100 member group.

Guthrie shared how reaching out to youngsters who are making their First Communion is very important to the Hightstown Rosarians.

“We make Rosary beads for the First Communion Communicants and give them with a book about the Rosary. I gave one to my great niece. It is a nice way of passing the Rosary on.”

BLESSINGS FROM MARY

Weaving the Rosary in church into the daily schedule is a given for many in St. Veronica Parish, Howell.

Priscilla Lagdameo, Marty Althaver and Teresa Scotto have all been regulars at the well-attended noon Mass at St. Veronica for 25 years.

“I always try to make it,” Scotto said. “It gives me a sense of peace. It’s almost like blessings from Mary. Members of the group are like sisters. It’s a big part of our life, not just an obligation.”

Althaver called this prayer time “the most important part of the day. It’s something that the Blessed Mother wants us to do.”

“You walk with Christ,” through the Mysteries of the Rosary, Lagdameo said. “You glorify God in this way. It’s very personal. I find praying the five decades, each framed by the Our Father and the Glory Be, to be deeply moving.”

Three Rosary prayer groups flourish at Nativity Parish in Fair Haven: the daily Mass group meets at 8 a.m. Monday through Saturday.

Ann Friel has been leading the Tuesday night group which meets at 7:15 p.m. since its founding in 1990; Mary Haynes and Lisa Laughinghouse first became involved with a Rosary group with a playroom for young mothers and their children and stayed involved over the years. Laughinghouse currently leads meets on Thursdays at 9:30 a.m.

All shared how meaningful their experiences have been. “Everyone is welcome,” said Friel. “It’s one of the most important hours of the week” for those who come to the Tuesday night group where the participants range in age from late 40s to “a lady who is 93.”

The gatherings “help bring hope and consolation in times of trial,” said Haynes. “We pray as a group and there's power in that, knowing you are supported is wonderful. We celebrate the good and give support in the rough times. You feel like it’s your family.”

“We welcome anyone to join us,” said Laughinghouse. “We’re all here for the Blessed Mother.”