ST. PAUL, Minnesota, OCT. 4, 2004 (Zenit.org).- On the feast of Our Lady of the Rosary, thousands of schoolchildren and families will gather to pray for a renewal of the family and an increased respect for life.
That’s the hope of Connie Schneider, organizer for the St. Paul and Minneapolis archdiocesan division of the World Apostolate of Fatima, who coordinated with the archdiocesan Office of Family, Laity, Youth and Young Adults a twofold event on Our Lady’s feast last year, comprising a field trip and rosary procession.
Schneider shared with ZENIT why she is calling children and families in every Catholic diocese this year to join in an international day of prayer, adoration and processions on Oct. 7.
Q: How did the schoolchildren’s rosary field trip and evening candlelight rosary processions for families get started?
Schneider: We wanted to do something wonderful for Our Lady during the Year of the Rosary last year, so we made a plan to invite the schoolchildren of the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis to the Cathedral of St. Paul for a rosary and holy hour on Oct. 7, the feast of Our Lady of the Rosary.
Both laity and clergy told us it would never work and we shouldn’t even try. But 28 schools responded and more than 3,200 children filled the St. Paul Cathedral to capacity. That evening, more than 3,000 people attended a candlelight rosary procession, during which we carried Our Lady of Fatima’s statue from the capitol to the cathedral.
To everyone’s surprise, the response was very enthusiastic, so this year we decided to invite every diocese in the world to unite on Oct. 7 with rosary field trips for schoolchildren and evening candlelight rosary processions for families. Packets were sent to every U.S. bishop and cardinal, and appropriate diocesan offices.
We’ve heard from two other dioceses in Minnesota; the Shrine of the Child Jesus at EWTN in Birmingham, Alabama; the dioceses of Rapid City, South Dakota, and Buffalo, New York; and as far away as Zambia, Africa, where the entire diocese will be uniting with us, and Puerto Rico. Many others may be planning events but may not have contacted us directly.
Q: How is this year going to be different from last year’s event?
Schneider: This year, we are positioning the event as a springboard to prayerfully usher in the Year of the Eucharist, which officially opens Oct. 10. During the entire year, we hope that educators and parents are encouraged to gather the children for holy hours of adoration, and to pray the rosary throughout the year for the family and for the respect for all life.
Then on Oct. 7, 2005, we are planning an international children’s celebration of thanksgiving for the Year of the Eucharist in cathedrals and parish churches.
Q: What inspired this movement?
Schneider: In 1994, at the close of the International Year of the Family, Pope John Paul II released a letter to children at Christmas. What he said struck me: “Dear young friends, it is to your prayers that I entrust the problems of your own families, and all the families of the world.”
He wrote a 412-page letter to children, that in all probability they would never read; yet he entrusted to them the problems of family life. I knew that there had to be more to this mini-encyclical and its mission than just our Holy Father sitting down to write a letter.
Q: What is the significance of uniting children and families for a worldwide day of prayer on the feast of Our Lady of the Rosary?
Schneider: The feast of Our Lady of the Rosary was formerly known as the feast of Our Lady of Victory. It referred to the Battle of Lepanto in 1571 when the Holy Father appealed to Christians to pray the rosary to stop the threat against Christian Europe during a time when all seemed lost.
Suddenly the wind that had been against them shifted and the battle was won. We are in the battle of a lifetime in a very troubled time in history.
Q: What needs to take place for a renewal of family life and respect for all life?
Schneider: Pure and simple — a miracle. Families are suffering. Children are victims of everything that is wrong in our society; they are affected in every way. Famine and war, yes, but also depression, anxiety disorders, abuse, broken homes and broken hearts.
They have lost their sense of hope, and this despair is growing. Only God can heal these sorts of problems.
But I remember, as many do, the Marian Year of 1988. Our Holy Father asked the world to unite with him in praying the rosary. Not long after that great event, the Berlin Wall came tumbling down without a shot fired or a drop of blood shed. It was an answer to a world at prayer.
Q: What are some ways that lay Catholics can help in this effort?
Schneider: This movement is entirely up to the lay Catholics of the world.
Parents and grandparents need to contact their bishops and the principals and teachers of their children and grandchildren, and let them know that they want their parish or diocese involved in such an event. They could volunteer their time and talents to help implement such a day of prayer.
It used to be that children followed their parents, but so often today the parents follow the children. As our Holy Father again stated in his letter, “Jesus and his Mother often choose children and give them important tasks for the life of the Church and of humanity.” If we work together, a miracle can happen for our families, our children and a newfound respect for life.
This simple program has the potential to call the Church militant into action. Let prayer be our action.