Prayer Needs

May 22, 2003
Prayer Needs
By Howie Mansfield
St. Joseph’s Parish collects rosaries for troops during Lent

BOONVILLE — A simple act of kindness goes a long way. St. Joseph’s parish community came together to collect rosaries, store-purchased and homemade, to be sent to Catholic military troops overseas. The idea for sending rosaries came from a homily delivered by Father Donald Karlen, pastor of St. Joseph’s Church, during Lent. The homily focused on the words of two U.S. Navy chaplains, Father Bill Devine and Father Sean P. O’Brien, a diocesan priest and former pastor of St. Patrick’s in Forestport. In his homily, Father Karlen mentioned a comment by Father Devine in the Boston Pilot that “Catholic devotionals” such as rosaries, medals, bibles, and prayer books. Father O’Brien said in the Boonville Herald to “please keep the brave men and women of our military forces in your daily prayers as they face constant danger here.”

Father Karlen used the comments from Father Devine and Father O’Brien to help parishioners reflect on the importance of the rosary to Catholics. After hearing Father Karlen’s homily on the need for devotionals, George Fallon and Raymond O’Brien, parishioners of St. Joseph’s, approached their pastor about what the church could do for the troops. “The people in this parish are very patriotic. Many come from military backgrounds,” said Fallon, a Marine veteran. “We wanted to do something to support our troops and what better way than through the rosary. I have always had a strong fondness for the rosary and the Blessed Mother. I say the rosary daily.”

Both O’Brien and Fallon went to work researching what types of rosaries might be purchased or made. O’Brien and Fallon worked individually, but when they came back together, they were surprised with their results. “When we talked, George showed me the rosary he picked out. It was the same one I did,” O’Brien said. “So as not to wait, I paid for 600 rosaries on my credit card and we had them a week later.” Fallon and O’Brien helped others from the parish collect additional handmade and donated rosaries to be included. When Father Karlen blessed the rosaries during the Easter vigil Mass on April 19, there were a total of 824 rosaries to be sent to Catholic military men and women. The parish collected over $1,000 to defray the cost of the purchased rosaries.

The rosaries were given to Richard Czajka, a parishioner of St. Joseph’s Church deployed at Fort Drum, to take to the Watertown base for distribution. “The theme during Lent was the rosary. The Holy Father’s pastoral letter on the rosary asked us to ‘contemplate the face of Christ at the school of Mary,’” Father Karlen said. “Contemplation is a major focus of the letter and it keeps pushing all of us to take the rosary more seriously.” Parishioners participated in a Lenten bible study and a retreat where praying the rosary was a key element. Father Karlen provided parishioners with a guide for praying the rosary. The church also provided rosaries to anyone without one. “We left them on the ends of the pews for people to take,” Father Karlen said. “We didn’t want to see anyone walking around without one.”

Fallon urged all Americans to support the troops in Iraq. “It’s not only a Catholic thing, but an American thing,” he said. “By the grace of God and through the force of arms we could end the evil of a brutal man [Saddam Hussein]. Now, by the grace of God and through the power of prayer, we must bring peace to these people [in Iraq.]” O’Brien said the experience has given him a renewed appreciation of the rosary. “Father Karlen did a great job with the diagram of how to pray the rosary, because a lot of people needed a refresher,” he said. Father Karlen received a letter from LTC Walter McGehee, chaplain for the 2nd Brigade Unit at Fort Drum, thanking St. Joseph’s Parish for the gift of rosaries for the troops. “We want to thank the people of your parish for their generosity concerning the religious support needs of the soldiers. As you know the mission is changing. Not as many units are deploying to the region as earlier. However, it is our intent that a number of these rosaries be taken into Iraq for our soldiers,” McGehee wrote. “However, there is another pressing need concerning soldiers who will be deployed to Afghanistan, and the need for rosaries in that theatre of operations. We would like chaplains who are deploying into that region to transport the majority of the rosaries with them.”

Father Karlen said he hopes the parish has been strengthened by helping the military and deepening their devotion to the Virgin Mary. “The parish has really been focusing on the power of prayer through the rosary, that God’s will be done by requesting his grace and guidance through prayer,” Fallon said. “And what better way to do that than through the Blessed Mother.”

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