During October the Church calls us to pray the rosary and to celebrate the missions. In our ministry, we pay special attention to the World Mission Rosary and focus on both.
Archbishop Fulton Sheen started this color-coded rosary in 1951 with each shade representing the world's populated continents. Sheen asked the faithful to pray the World Mission Rosary for missionaries and the people they accompany on their faith journeys on each continent.
This way of praying the rosary has spread around the world. It has been my privilege to witness its use and to participate in spreading its story as I travel, often wearing them as a sign of my faith.
In Uganda, I met a woman who wore the beautiful beads with a decidedly local twist -- the crucifix was placed on a medal in the shape of continent of Africa. I watched Ecuadorian Missionary Childhood members dance and sing with banners colored like the rosary. At a men's retreat I spoke at in Papua New Guinea, an attendee showed off his own set as I introduced the group to this unique way to pray for the world. In Sri Lanka, children learning our faith on a rural tea estate were thrilled to receive their own beads from me, handmade by volunteers here in Boston.
While explaining the World Mission Rosary, I tell people that because there are so many praying these precious beads worldwide, the new users are already being remembered in prayer every day. I invite people to memorize the colors and where they represent:
Green is for the forests and grasslands of Africa.
Red is for the fire of faith brought to the Americas by missionaries.
White is for Europe, home of the Holy Father.
Blue is for Oceania, home of the Pacific island countries.
Yellow is for Asia, where the sun rises first in the east.
Our wonderful volunteers have been creating our World Mission Rosaries since March of 2020. We have a goal of putting the beads into the hands of every Catholic student -- whether in a school or a parish faith formation program -- across the Archdiocese of Boston. Our latest boxes went to Sacred Hearts School in Haverhill and Saint Florence Parish in Wakefield!
Are you a principal, a Faith Formation Director, or a teacher in a Catholic School or parish in the Archdiocese of Boston? Would you like your students to learn to pray for the whole world? Your rosaries are waiting for you!
- Maureen Crowley Heil is Director of Programs and Development for the Pontifical Mission Societies, Boston.