At a time prayer is desperately needed to address the world’s ills, organizers of the 41st annual Arizona Rosary Celebration hailed the event as the latest evidence that the Rosary continues to experience a resurgence among Catholics, with nearly 7,000 faithful from throughout Arizona filling the Phoenix Convention Center Oct. 23.
This year’s event came as the Church’s Year of Mercy winds down and, in keeping with the annual practice of honoring Mary, paid homage to the Blessed Virgin in her role as “Our Lady of Mercy.”
“It is a great spiritual event. I’ve been coming for 23 years. I think people realize it’s through the Rosary we’re going to be able to fix the problems of the world. But we need a lot of people praying it,” said Larry Costanzo, state chairman for the Rosary Celebration for the Knights of Columbus, which co-sponsored the event with other Catholic organizations.
While prayer is an essential of Catholic life, taking part in saying the Rosary lifts one’s experience to a higher level, according to Arlene Muglia, member of the Knights’ Ladies Auxiliary at All Saints Parish in Mesa.
“It brings us close to Our Lady. It enriches our faith. You have to feel it to understand it,” she said.
In his keynote address, Fr. Ignatius Mazanowski, FHS, a member of the newly established Franciscan Friars of the Holy Spirit, noted that mercy in Latin is Misericordia, which he pointed out is actually rooted in two words: misery — or suffering — of the heart; literally having a heart willing to suffer with someone in misery or suffering.
At the cross, where Jesus died, Mary demonstrated this concept. “She feels compassion for Jesus on the cross. She freely enters into his suffering. She stays and is faithful to him, shows compassion through her presence.”
“Mercy is something you can grow in, get better at,” added Fr. Ignatius, who recently completed his doctoral studies in Rome with an emphasis on the mercy of God. “It eventually becomes part of who you are. Mercy as compassion, entering into another person’s suffering, is the highest form of love.”
Sunday’s activities drew participants from throughout the state, including a number of groups and churches who participated in brightly colored cultural dress.
This was the second celebration Carmen Valadez of St. John Vianney Parish in Goodyear performed as part of a dance troupe.
“I think for me personally, dancing to the Virgin Mary, is in my blood. When we start, we give thanks, dance and stay for the Rosary,” she said.
Donna Weidoff of St. Joseph Parish noticed that in recent years the number of children, particularly younger ones, has grown; an important development.
“We have a lot of families this year, which means there is more parish involvement. That is a positive thing, because the parishes are made aware of Our Lady.”
Chris and Bridget Boccieri, also of St. Joseph, were accompanied by all seven of their children. They saw this as an opportunity to reinforce lessons about the importance of mercy.
“You have to be able to forgive before you receive forgiveness,” said Bridget. “Teaching kids the fundamentals of forgiving (is important).”
Danny Haywood, a member of the Knights of Columbus and chairman of the Phoenix Rosary Celebration, was heartened by the turnout.
“It’s a powerful prayer. The Rosary is a definite prayer everyone knows. If we can get more people to pray (it), maybe things can change.”