Family Rosary Procession in St. Paul turns 70

| April 25, 2017 | 0 Comments

Connie Schneider knows well the power of Marian devotions in her life, believing they helped 15 family members return to the Catholic Church.

“We began to say the rosary and never have been the same after that,” said Schneider, a parishioner of Blessed Sacrament in St. Paul.

Schneider, chairwoman of the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis’ annual Family Rosary Procession, hopes many people can discover the power of the rosary at the 70th procession May 7 in St. Paul. The prayerful walk for all ages from the State Capitol grounds to the Cathedral of St. Paul in St. Paul begins 2 p.m. with Archbishop Bernard Hebda leading. It concludes by 3:30 p.m. in the Cathedral with Benediction and a homily.

“I’m hoping that every family, at least one member of every family, will come join with other families of the archdiocese and pray for their own family and all the families of the world, because we all need help,” said Schneider, who has served as the chairperson since 2007. “The wind is blowing in a very bad direction, and we have to turn it around.”

At the procession, hundreds of Catholics attend annually to pray the rosary accompanied by a large Marian statue. Processions began in 1947 as a response to communism in Europe and Our Lady of Fatima’s 1917 message to pray for the conversion of communist Russia. This year’s procession takes place during the 100th anniversary of Mary’s 1917 apparitions in Fatima, Portugal.

To commemorate the Fatima centennial, participants can obtain handkerchiefs with the apparition’s image to wave as the Marian statue passes by.

“It’s a manner of greeting Our Lady and showing her love and devotion to her,” Schneider said.

The archdiocesan Office of Worship, which hosts the procession, also encourages attendees to make banners to represent their respective parishes. The Family Rosary Processions Association collaborates with the Office of Worship for the procession.

Our Lady of Fatima in particular touched Schneider’s family in 1983 when they visited the traveling Fatima statue in St. Paul. Schneider, who didn’t practice the faith then, returned to the Church starting with praying the rosary. She said people’s “problems can be overcome by the rosary,” but it’s “not like magic;” Mary’s intercession can be counted on.

Msgr. Richard Doherty, director of Catholic Action for the archdiocese at the time, called for people to invoke Mary’s prayers in the 1947 procession. Florence Kueppers co-founded the procession.

The procession returned the following year because of the strong turnout in 1947. In 1951, it expanded to the Basilica of St. Mary in Minneapolis in conjunction with St. Paul’s the first Sunday of each May.

Thousands attended both, and participation climbed in 1963 to 65,000, according to the Catholic Bulletin, The Catholic Spirit’s predecessor. Attendance dwindled, though, in the 1970s and beyond, including the reduction to one procession in St. Paul around 2007.

“The world changed,” Schneider said.

While she wants to see bigger numbers, she hopes those who can’t make the procession will pray a rosary that day for families, too.

“If we spiritually unite in prayer, something good will happen,” she said.

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