Arizona Rosary Celebration: Face Time with Mary

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Bishop Thomas J. Olmsted bows in front of the Marian shrine erected for the 2014 Arizona Rosary Celebration. This year's day of prayer and inspiration for Catholics across the Diocese of Phoenix is Oct. 25. (Catholic Sun file photo)
Bishop Thomas J. Olmsted bows in front of the Marian shrine erected for the 2014 Arizona Rosary Celebration. This year’s day of prayer and inspiration for Catholics across the Diocese of Phoenix is Oct. 25. (Catholic Sun file photo)

October in the Diocese of Phoenix brings not only cooler weather, but an annual rosary extravaganza that attracts thousands for a day of prayer and inspiration.

Taking place during the month in which Catholics worldwide renew devotion to the rosary — and thereby draw closer to Christ — the Arizona Rosary Celebration is celebrating its 40th year. This year, the event honors Mary under her title of Mother of Perpetual Help.

From its humble beginnings at St. Francis Xavier Church, the colorful annual event has blossomed into an October tradition at the Phoenix Convention Center. Five years ago, the tradition spread to the Diocese of Tucson and falls during the same weekend.

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Arizona Rosary Celebration

When: 2-4:15 p.m., Sunday, Oct. 25

Where: Phoenix Convention Center, Halls F and G, 33 S. Third St.

Info: azrosary.com or (623) 939-1840

Going there? Share photos and live tweets using #AZRosary40

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One of the highlights is the parade that begins at Immaculate Heart of Mary Parish in downtown Phoenix and proceeds to the convention hall. The Missionary Image of Our Lady of Guadalupe, an exact replica of the miraculous image on St. Juan Diego’s tilma, is one of the parade’s focal points, and Knights of Columbus, arrayed in their regalia, will accompany the image.

Redemptorist Father Dennis Billy, will deliver the keynote address at the event. Fr. Billy, chair of moral theology at St. Charles Borromeo Seminary in Pennsylvania, spent 20 years in Rome teaching the history of moral theology and Christian spirituality. His selection as speaker is no coincidence: the Redemptorists have been spreading devotion to Our Lady under the icon and title of Mother of Perpetual Help since 1866.

In an era in which millions are caught up posting to social media sites, Fr. Billy offered his take on the importance of devotion to the Rosary.

“The Rosary puts us face-to-face with Mary and Mary puts us face-to-face with God,” Fr. Billy said. “You could say the Rosary is a type of spiritual Facebook.”

Fr. Billy said in his talk he’ll delve into the meaning of the famous icon of Our Mother of Perpetual Help.

“There are shrines to Mary under that title throughout the world in many, many places. It’s one of the best known images in the Church today,” he said.

He’ll also address the Rosary and the workings of devotion to Mary in everyday life.

“Pope Francis recently said that a person without devotion to Mary is like an orphan. I believe that very much. Mary is our mother,” Fr. Billy said.

John Garcia, charged with publicizing the Arizona Rosary Celebration, said devotion to the Rosary is crucial.

“We need to remember the hope that Christ promises us through Mary,” Garcia said. “Our Lady of Perpetual Help is so deeply thematic of that hope. She personifies the hope that we are promised and we need that so badly right now.”

As always, there’s a poster contest leading up to the Arizona Rosary Celebration. Students in kindergarten through eighth grade submitted a poster that depicts how they see Our Lady of Perpetual Help as a model of Christian love. The posters on an 8-1/2-by-11-inch paper used any materials and were created free-hand by the student. Winners will enjoy a pizza lunch with Bishop Thomas J. Olmsted.

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