30 Years of Prayer and Devotion: Family Rosary Crusade celebrates its continuing vigils
September 27th 2012 · 0 Comments
Thirty years ago, Ann Marie Piacentino was visiting the Blue Army Shrine of Our Lady of Fatima in Washington, NJ. (Our Lady of Fatima is the vision of the Blessed Mother Mary witnessed by three Portuguese children in 1917.) It was there that she noticed a long processional of the faithful following four priests carrying a statue of the Blessed Virgin Mary, praying the Rosary. As they proceeded into the chapel, Mrs. Piacentino was struck by the beauty and the true devotion of those she saw.
“It was so beautiful,” Anne Marie said. “It occurred to me that the people in Utica could do the same and experience that same love and devotion. It was a very moving scene, an expression of faith. It moved me spiritually all the way home on the bus. ”
Ann Marie returned home determined to provide a means to bring forth that level of spiritual expression in her hometown. Since that time, the Family Rosary Crusade has been building followers and gathering people from near and far who pray the Rosary and give tribute to the Blessed Mother and Holy Family. This year is the thirtieth anniversary of the Family Rosary Crusade, and will fall on October 7, the Feast of Our Lady of the Rosary.
On this thirtieth year the event will be held at Holy Trinity Church on Lincoln Ave. and Father Charles Connor will give homily. At least 10 Priests and Deacons will celebrate the Mass.
The first Rosary Crusade didn’t include the Mass, says Piacentino. “We started this at Our Lady of Lourdes. That first year the church was just overflowing. There were 1,500 people there. At the beginning Knights of Columbus would carry the statue of the Blessed Mother up Genesee St. to St. Joseph’s Nursing Home while we prayed the Rosary. They would bring out the residents of the home who could come outside. Others would sit in their windows and wave blue hankies. The statue of the Blessed Mother would be carried around the circular driveway. The residents would see the statue and pray, and there we would release of doves before we would turn around and process back down to the church.”
Monsignor Daniel Lawler, then Pastor at Our Lady Of Lourdes, was the first priest to become involved and eventually became the became the Spiritual Director of the Crusade. Piacentino explains that many devoted priests followed his lead. And that today the church is still always packed. “It was just a really, really inspirational service. Very peaceful. There have been healings of the sick. We pray for our country. We pray for peace in our families and for the world. There are many answered prayers. People go home uplifted. They regain strength to go on and lead better lives.
“In the beginning we advertised it by putting signs all over the place. We used to mail blue ribbons to everyone who registered. Blue is the color of Mary. We asked them to tie them on their porches and poles. We had blue ribbons tied all over the city! We had a big committee. A lot of those devoted people we started with have passed on.” Today, the Piacentino family, especially son, David, and a small committee of people keep up the tradition.
Ann Marie’s late husband, Albert, was once a big part of the Crusade. He died 17 years ago. “It was a total life change for me. I live a different kind of life today. I relied on Our Lady then and now. My home is dedicated to Our Lady. She was a widow too. The Bible teaches to protect the widows and I relied on those promises from the Bible. My husband did what David does now for the Crusade. David will be the next one to carry the torch.”
Mrs. Piacentino keeps the rosewood statue of Our Lady of Fatima, which will be used during the ceremony, in her home. Piacentino purchased it through Fr. Peter Bennett, a Scalabrian Priest, who was then head of the Blue Army Shrine where she received the inspiration for the Family Rosary Crusade. Fr. Bennett went to Portugal and chose it from many others made by the same sculptor for its beauty.
It was shipped first to Rio de Janeiro, then made its way to the New York Harbor, where there was a strike. It sat in New York City for a time, then moved on to Syracuse. “When they opened the crate in Syracuse to inspect its contents, they said, ‘Oh, we can’t charge you for this.’ And they never charged us the customs fee.” That was 25 years ago.
For those who would criticize Catholics for their love of statues as worship of graven images and idols, Mrs. Piacentino answers, “We don’t worship these statues. We worship the One God. These statues are reminders of real people and the signs and wonders that keep us connected to our own divinity.
“It’s like we take picture of our children and put them all over the house. It is a reminder of our love for them and their love for us.”
During these past thirty years, one of the outgrowths of the Crusade has been the Family Rosary Radio, heard every Sunday from 8 a.m. to 10 a.m. on WUSP 95.5, 1550 AM and 1480 AM.
“WUTQ used to go off the air at 6 p.m. They were looking for a close out for their day. I asked them if it could be the Rosary. Dan Fusco owned the station then and was at first very resistant. Finally, the station manager relented and gave us five minutes to pray.
“Now we are up to two hours and ten decades of the Rosary meditation. In 1985 we began with only five minutes. Through Our Lady’s intercession we now have a two hour program! When God wants something to happen He pushes it through!”
The events at Holy Trinity will begin at 2:45 p.m. with the Caplet of Divine Mercy – a call upon God’s mercy for the sins of the whole world. At 3:00, the Sacrifice of the Mass is undertaken. Before the Mass will be the Pledge of Allegiance, led by Mayor Robert Palmieri, and the singing of God Bless America.
After the Mass participants will be offered Enrollment into Our Lady of Mount Carmel Brown Scapulary. “This places them under the protection of Our Lady. She gave it at Mt. Carmel and attached many promises of salvation and protection to it. She said that if you wear the Scapular and lead a good life, when you die you will go into to Heaven the first Saturday after you die. (A scapular is a talisman made from two squares of brown cloth with pictures of Our Lady on them. These are held together by brown strings and are worn around the neck beneath clothing.) Scapulars will be handed out to participants.
“Then we have the renewal of baptismal vows. We consecrate ourselves and our families under God’s care as that of the Holy Family. We ask for the help of the Guardian Angels and St. Joseph to live a Christ-like life.
“Then the Magnificat will be sung and then the recitation of the Rosary. There will be a procession with a blanket of roses. Women will be led by a girl, all carrying roses, and they will distribute them to the congregation. We conclude with a Benediction and then dinner in the church hall at 5:30. People stay for the entire day.
“The dinner will be $25 per person and held in church hall. It will be catered by Café Bella Mia. There will be a display of Venerable Archbishop Fulton Sheen’s personal effects.
“The rose is something to take home to remember from a day to stop to make room for God; a day of reflection. With all that is going on today, we need fortitude and perseverance to go on. People are really starved for spiritual reassurance. And they come out for it. It helps so many people.
“The Blessed Mother, she is the attraction. God accomplishes so much in our lives. Our Lady says, ‘Pray the Rosary. Every day, pray, pray. Pray for world peace.’”