Danza Caas celebrates the 37th Annual Arizona Rosary Celebration in Phoenix, Ariz. on Oct. 21, 2012 by dancing for Our Lady of Guadalupe. (Amy Vogelsang/CATHOLIC SUN)

More than 5,000 Catholics descended on the Phoenix Convention Center Oct. 21 for the annual Arizona Rosary Celebration, now in its 37th year in the Phoenix Diocese.

Bishop Thomas J. Olmsted smiles at the clergy and students who lead the Rosary at the 37th Annual Arizona Rosary Celebration in Phoenix, Ariz. on Oct. 21, 2012. (Amy Vogelsang/CATHOLIC SUN)

Luz Sanidad traveled in a group of 19 from St. Bridget Parish in Las Vegas in order to participate in the Blessing Procession that marks the opening of the large-scale rosary event.

“We came to honor Our Lady. We’re devoted to her,” Sanidad said.

Alfredo Navarro, of St. Catherine of Siena Parish, said he’s attended the rosary celebration for the last seven years.

“Just being here with all my fellow Catholics — it touches me to see the love that all these people show all together at once on one day like this, coming together to pray to her, to pray for our Church.”

The Blessing Procession featured a colorful array of participants from all over the Phoenix Diocese, including Catholic school children dressed in uniform, the local lay Carmelite community, Couples for Christ, the Shoenstatt Rosary Campaign, and the Cursillo movement.

Several groups carried large, handmade rosaries. Members of Our Lady of Czestochowa Parish, a Polish community, and St. Columba Kim Mission, a Korean community, marched in their native attire. Other participants carried banners or statues of the Blessed Virgin.

The hall reverberated with the rhythmic drumming of the Matachine dancers who brought up the rear of the procession.

“Doesn’t it make you proud to be a part of the Diocese of Phoenix?” Michael Dixon, master of ceremonies, asked the crowd. “That was magnificent. I know Our Lady is smiling down on all of you.”

“I am always so moved by the Blessing Procession,” Bishop Thomas J. Olmsted told those gathered. “Today is a great day of grace.”

Auxiliary Bishop Eduardo A. Nevares, who led the rosary prayers, spoke about the importance of the Marian devotion.

“Continue to pray the rosary, not just today, but every day in your homes,” Bishop Nevares said. “Keep the holy rosary close to you each and every day, especially during this Year of Faith, so that our Lady can teach us to know, love and serve her beloved Son, Jesus Christ. The rosary has great power to convert us and unite us to God.”

Bishop Olmsted noted that the rosary celebration was taking place on the same day as the canonization of Kateri Tekakwitha in Rome. The Phoenix Diocese, Bishop Olmsted said, is home to more than 60,000 Native Americans.

“We rejoice with them that one of our Native Americans is now a saint and she will intercede for all of us,” Bishop Olmsted said. “I would encourage in particular our young people to read her life and to see in her a great example of a teenager who had the courage to accept the gift of faith to be baptized despite all persecution and hardship.”

Fr. Zachary Mother of God Shallow, SOLT, a former attorney who is now the priest director of administration and formation for the lay faithful, gave the keynote address.

“When we pray the rosary, we contemplate the face of Christ in the school of Mary,” Fr. Shallow said, “and Mary forms us in this school to live our baptism…living our baptism is what the universal call to holiness is all about.”

Praying the rosary, Fr. Shallow said, helps transform our lives.

“When you pray the rosary, all the saving power of that mystery is released in your life and Our Lady obtains grace for you from the Holy Spirit,” Fr. Shallow said.

The hall erupted in sustained applause and cheers when Fr. Shallow spoke about the Nov. 6 election.

“As Catholics, you cannot vote for a candidate that supports abortion because he supports abortion. That would be formal cooperation in intrinsic evil and that’s a mortal sin,” Fr. Shallow said.

“Some people might say, ‘I’m voting for the candidate for other reasons.’ Well, let me give you clear Church teaching. If you vote for a candidate that supports abortion and you’re saying it’s for other reasons, that’s still material cooperation in an intrinsic evil,” he said.

“To materially cooperate in an intrinsic evil, you must have a proportionate reason and there must be no other viable option. And in light of 50 million abortions, there is no proportionate reason.”