PROVIDENCE — The Diocese of Providence sponsored its first-ever Rosary Congress this year as seven parishes throughout Rhode Island accompanied the Blessed Sacrament in perpetual Adoration and prayed the Rosary every hour for one week.
From Oct. 3-9, each parish hosted the Rosary Congress, which is a response to Our Lady of Fatima’s call to conversion, consecration and prayer, which are offered in a spirit of reparation for life, peace and healing in the Church.
“What a privilege it is to be able to do something like this,” said Linda Gatta, 70, a parishioner of St. Philip Church in Greenville who coordinated the Rosary Congress for the Diocese of Providence.
Gatta, who is also the coordinator of the state’s chapter of Magnificat, a women’s prayer ministry, said the grace from participating in the Rosary Congress is perhaps needed more than ever amid a pandemic, widespread confusion and various threats to the sanctity of life.
“The power of prayer that has come forth through this Rosary Congress, without ceasing for 24 hours and 7 days, everyone praying for the same intentions, I really believe this is going to overcome the darkness, the cloudiness in 2020, that people need to have a clearer vision as to what almighty God wants and what the Church is truly teaching,” Gatta said.
The first Rosary Congress was held in Poland in May 1979, when the Polish people prayed through Mary’s intercession for St. Pope John Paul II to be able to visit his homeland, then governed by a hardline communist regime. Their prayers were answered as the pontiff visited Poland a month later.
In 1988, the devotion arrived in the United States as the First National Rosary Congress was held in Washington, D.C., at the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception. Dozens of dioceses over the years since have sponsored Rosary Congresses.
“It was a real privilege for the Diocese of Providence to host its first ever Rosary Congress throughout seven of our local parishes,” said Father Nathan Ricci, the vice chancellor for the Diocese of Providence.
A lay woman from the Archdiocese of Hartford wrote to Bishop Thomas Tobin this summer asking if the Diocese of Providence would consider holding the Rosary Congress. Bishop Tobin approved.
“Pastors have informed me of how moving this experience was for them, as we collectively entrusted the Church and the world to the heavenly protection of Our Blessed Mother,” said Father Ricci, who added that he is confident the diocese “will receive many fruits” from the Congress.
“One pastor commented that this was necessary especially in light of the global pandemic and the social upheaval facing the nation,” Father Ricci said. “He said he was impressed to see many of his parishioners, even well into the evening, praying in silence before the Blessed Sacrament.”
Father James Ruggieri, pastor of St. Patrick Church in Providence, which hosted the Rosary Congress on Oct. 3, said his parish had “very good attendance throughout the 24 hours,” including overnight.
“In these Covid times, we’re trying to look for ways to spiritually feed our people. We’re just so limited now in the times that we’re living. This was an ideal opportunity for people to come together,” Father Ruggieri said.
According to rosarycongressusa.org, a website that offers a historical and spiritual overview of the devotion, a Rosary Congress is a “cenacle of prayer that hastens the triumph of the Immaculate Heart of Mary.” The cenacle was the upper room in which Christ instituted the Eucharist and was also the scene of the first novena where the apostles and the Blessed Virgin Mary gathered in continuous prayer until the descent of the Holy Spirit.
The Rosary Congress also evokes the Old Testament Siege of Jericho in which God’s people marched around the walls of Jericho for seven days, at which point the city walls crumbled. The devotion is also said to be a fulfillment of St. John Bosco’s dream of “The Two Pillars,” which envisioned the Barque of Peter being guided to safety by the Blessed Virgin Mary and the Blessed Sacrament.
“I think for our diocese there are many graces that are coming from this,” Father Ruggieri said. “On a parish level, how it engaged our parishioners was very beautiful.”
Father Andrew Messina, pastor at Saints Rose and Clement Church in Warwick, which hosted the Rosary Congress on Oct. 4, said his parish had “a good amount of participation” from parishioners, as well as people from nearby churches, the Knights of Columbus and Legion of Mary.
“It was absolutely beautiful,” Father Messina said. “Anytime we can spend some peaceful quiet time with the Lord is something that we definitely want to do. It also goes right to words of our Blessed Mother Mary from Fatima about conversion and prayer and being with the Lord. It all ties in together, particularly during the month of October, a devotional month for the Blessed Mother.
“There was no way we could have said no,” Father Messina said. “It was just too good of an opportunity to pass.”