They came by the busload to implore the intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary. Some 6,000 local Catholics poured into the Phoenix Convention Center Oct. 12 for the colorful pageantry of the annual Arizona Rosary Celebration.
Dozens of matachines dancers arrayed in their traditional ceremonial dress beat drums as they performed in the afternoon sunshine just outside the convention center doors.
Inside, Catholics browsed exhibitor booths and listened to the soulful performance of the St. John Vianney group. Confession and adoration were both available inside the hall as well.
Patricia Buckley, 11, was with seven members of the Little Flowers of St. Therese from Ss. Simon and Jude Cathedral, and was excited to see the many religious sisters in attendance.
“I came because I wanted to hear the nuns again from last year and because it seems really cool praying the whole rosary as a giant community,” Buckley said.
The Year of Consecrated Life, set to begin Nov. 29, was one element woven into the theme of the Arizona Rosary Celebration. Religious sisters introduced each of the five decades of the Joyful Mysteries with a scriptural reflection.
Morisal Gabria, a Xavier College Preparatory student who read the intention for the second mystery, prayed that, “in this year of consecrated life, may we imitate Mary and Elizabeth and bring our faith to others.”
The faithful from parishes and Catholic organizations throughout the Diocese of Phoenix, led by the Knights of Columbus and the missionary image of Our Lady of Guadalupe, processed through the convention center, carrying banners, flowers and statues. When members of the 40 Days for Life pro-life prayer group marched down the center aisle, the crowd of thousands erupted in applause. The group is in the midst of its fall campaign.
Bishop Thomas J. Olmsted and Auxiliary Bishop Eduardo A. Nevares addressed participants in the event in both English and Spanish.
“What a joy to see so many gathered here to honor our Blessed Mother,” Bishop Nevares said. “Each Hail Mary is like offering her a beautiful rose that symbolizes our affection and appreciation.”
Bishop Olmsted put the spotlight on Our Lady of Guadalupe.
“We are all children of God, but we are also children of the Morenita, the Virgin of Guadalupe,” Bishop Olmsted said, “who brought about the first evangelization of the Americas.”
Bishop Olmsted reminded participants of the importance of praying the rosary, especially by families. His own family, he said, prayed the rosary when he was growing up.
“There are special graces for the family that prays the rosary together,” Bishop Olmsted said. He thanked members of the Knights of Columbus, the Legion of Mary and Radio Family Rosary for organizing the gathering.
Each year, the Arizona Rosary Celebration honors the Blessed Virgin under a different title. This year’s event pointed to her Immaculate Conception and the keynote speaker, Fr. Juan Diego Brunetta, O.P., emphasized Our Lady’s role.
“Everything about Mary points to Jesus,” Fr. Brunetta said. “She never points inward to herself but always outward to her Son.”
Mary, he said, was prepared by God to be a special mother for Jesus — so special, in fact, that she is singular from all mothers through all time.
The third Marian dogma, Mary’s Immaculate Conception, refers to the fact that she herself was conceived without original sin, a special grace was given to her by her Son Jesus through His death on the cross, Fr. Brunetta said. Since God stands outside our concept of time, this is possible.
“God is not bound by time — God lives in the eternal now,” Fr. Brunetta said. “For God everything is now.”
Maria Garcia of St. Gabriel Parish attended the rosary event with her three young daughters. The annual gathering has been taking place for the last 39 years and Garcia said she’s attended previously.
“It’s a great way to share our faith and to pray the rosary together. I think it’s very powerful,” Garcia said. “It’s beautiful, seeing all the different cultures that come together to pray the rosary.” The various decades of the rosary were prayed in English, Spanish and Tagalog.
Ed Whalen from St. Louis the King said it was the sixth or seventh time he had attended the rosary celebration.
“I think it is very important that we do this together and that the community comes together,” Whalen said. “You feel the Spirit move.”
The Diocese of Tucson held its Arizona Rosary Celebration event Oct. 11.