Rosary festival celebrates reopening of Museum of Family Prayer
EASTON -- As the sun set on a warm autumn evening, dozens of people participated in Family Rosary's first-ever "rosary festival," held on the grounds of the Museum of Family Prayer on Oct. 8, the day after the feast of Our Lady of the Rosary.
The event began in daylight but ended after dusk. Rosaries and candles, including electric ones for children, were distributed as participants gathered outside the museum entrance, close to a statue of Venerable Patrick Peyton, the founder of Family Rosary.
After welcoming the assembly, Father Willy Raymond, CSC, the president of Holy Cross Family Ministries, blessed the statue of Father Peyton, which was delivered to the museum last winter. They had held a blessing at the time of its arrival, but they wanted to hold another when the weather was warmer and more people could be present.
Father Raymond encouraged everyone to think of the rosary festival as a pilgrimage.
"A pilgrimage is meant to be a religious experience and an opportunity to come face-to-face with God and to make a decision," he said.
As they prayed the rosary together, children took turns pulling a wagon bearing a statue of the Blessed Mother surrounded by flowers. Holding their candles, the assembly followed the wagon in a procession around the circular driveway, completing one lap with each decade of the rosary and adding Marian hymns in the remaining intervals. Leaders used a microphone and speaker to lead the prayers in different languages. At the end of the procession, the children scattered flower petals over and around the statue while the clergy read closing prayers. Refreshments were then served inside the museum.
Cynthia Almonacy drove an hour from her workplace in Warwick, Rhode Island, to participate in the event.
"I didn't know what to expect, because it was their first time doing it," she said afterwards.
She said she found it "peaceful" and "joyful," and that she was glad she had made the drive.
Father James Phalan, CSC, the national director of Family Rosary, explained that since October is the month of the rosary, "this is a wonderful time for us to encourage people to pray the rosary."
Family Rosary and the Museum of Family Prayer are ministries of Holy Cross Family Ministries. The museum first opened in September 2019, but had to close its doors just a few months later due to the coronavirus pandemic. They reopened in July 2021 with what Father Phalan called a "soft launch." The rosary festival, which they hope to make an annual event, was meant to be "our welcome, our saying, 'Here we are.'"
"After a year of lockdown and having our museum closed, we really wanted to do something that could invite our community in," Jordan Karol-Chik, the museum's program and events coordinator, said after the rosary festival.
Karol-Chik said something special about the museum, compared to other places where she has worked, is that children and adults are not directed to different areas or activities.
"Our museum is really for the family to come together and learn together," she said.
Upon entering the museum, visitors face a semicircular wall of screens showing different forms of prayer around the world.
"We're a Catholic museum, but prayer is the root of most, if not all, religions. It's a conversation with God. That's what we're trying to help people to understand," Karol-Chik said.
This is underscored by a section on the history of prayer, starting with the Psalms and the Judaic roots of Christian prayer.
The museum's chapel, which Father Phalan called "the heart of our museum," offers daily Mass that is livestreamed on Facebook. Instead of the stations of the cross, the walls bear images of the mysteries of the rosary.
Some of the museum exhibits are interactive. For instance, one section explains how to pray the rosary, and includes buttons that can be pressed to play a recording of each prayer. Another exhibit features videos of people sharing testimonies of answered prayers.
Visitors can also write down and leave behind their own prayer intentions. Karol-Chik said they copy down each prayer intention written on the museum's Facebook page so the priests can pray for them.
"It's not a shout into a void. We are listening, and our priests are really adamant about that. If they're going to be using social media, they want to be sure they're using it in the right way," she said.
Part of the museum is dedicated to the life and work of Father Peyton, who spent his priesthood promoting the rosary and encouraging families to pray together.
Born in Ireland in 1909, his family prayed the rosary together every day. After immigrating to the U.S., he attended the University of Notre Dame and became a priest of the Congregation of Holy Cross. He founded the Family Rosary Crusade movement and traveled the world holding rosary rallies, some of which drew millions of people.
Father Peyton was also a media pioneer, using film and radio to evangelize and even engage with the mainstream entertainment industry. His Family Theater radio dramas featured many popular actors of his day, among them Jimmy Stewart, Lucille Ball, and Gregory Peck. He also produced films about the mysteries of the rosary -- some of the equipment he used is on display at the museum.
Father Peyton died in 1992 and was declared Venerable by Pope Francis in 2017. During his life, Father Peyton popularized the phrase, "The family that prays together stays together," a belief that the museum continues to promote.
Speaking to The Pilot after the rosary festival, Father Raymond said he sees "an amazing revival of family prayer" happening now.
"I see that in a lot of young couples that are serious about their marriage and their family life. We know family is in jeopardy right now, it needs a lot of support. And after the Eucharist, there's nothing more powerful than the rosary to bring the family together, to sustain it," Father Raymond said.
More information about the Museum of Family Prayer is available at www.museumoffamilyprayer.org. Information about Family Rosary, one of the Holy Cross Family Ministries, can be found at www.familyrosary.org.