by Marc and Julie Anderson
TOPEKA — It started out small. Or, at least that’s what Rey Maixner and Marilyn Dorrell, parishioners at Christ the King Parish here, said about the rosary group they founded in June 1989.
Now 18 years later, the group has grown to include a core group of some 15 members who gather two or three times per month to pray the rosary at one of the members’ homes.
In April 1989, Maixner went on a trip to Medjugorje in Bosnia-Herzegovina (part of the former Yugoslavia). When she returned home, she said she felt as if the Blessed Mother wanted her to do something to spread devotion to her.
“I always felt the Blessed Virgin had a reason and a plan for me,” Maixner said. “So, Marilyn and I asked four other people to join us one evening to pray the rosary at my home.
“The rest, as they say, is history.”
For several years, Maixner hosted the rosary group at her home and provided refreshments afterwards. More recently, the group has rotated its meeting spot among the various core members. Because the host and/or hostess provides the additional hospitality of refreshments, the tradition has led one longtime member to affectionately dub the event the “cookie rosary.”
The group is not necessarily what Father Patrick Peyton, the rosary priest, may have had in mind when he said, “The family that prays together, stays together.”
However, there’s little doubt he would be proud of this particular group, which has bonded as a family supporting its members through prayer in good times and in bad, including weddings, the arrival of new grandchildren, deaths, retirements, sicknesses, car accidents, anniversaries and a myriad of other occasions.
For Josie Callan, also a member of Christ the King Parish, the rosary group came along at the right time for her and her late husband, John.
“My husband John had lost his job, due to the fact that his company was sold and downsized its staff. At that time, John was in his 60s and unsure of what to do next with his life, and eventually fell into depression,” she said. “The rosary group was a godsend to us, as it helped him to have a group of friends to both pray with and share his struggles.”
Callan admits the rosary group has also provided her with a lot of peace and comfort after her husband passed away in 2003.
“It’s nice to have the rosary in a home setting. Not only do we all pray together, but we socialize with one another afterward. That has helped us all to build a sense of family or community with each other,” she added.
Maixner, Callan and the rest of the rosary group members will be among an expected 1,000 people who will gather at 7 p.m. on Oct. 24 at Christ the King Parish in Topeka for an evening of eucharistic adoration and the recitation of the Global Living Rosary.
All are invited to attend the event, which will feature praise and worship music prior to the event, a Holy Hour of adoration with children leading the rosary, a homily by Archbishop Joseph F. Naumann and a reception afterward in the parish hall.
Father Pete O’Sullivan, pastor of the Christ the King, said he expects to see an increase in devotion to the Blessed Mother and the rosary as a result of the rally.
“Getting into the tradition of praying is a wonderful thing to do,” he said. “So often people say they’d like to learn to pray more, but are confused about how to do just that. The rosary provides a real structure.
“If you start praying the rosary and make it a habit, then prayer becomes a habit in your life.”
Father O’Sullivan said he grew up praying the rosary with his parents, brothers and sisters, but some of the generations that have come after him have not had the youthful exposure to the rosary that he enjoyed.
“This [Holy Hour] will provide a greater exposure to the whole parish and the Topeka area, but especially to the younger generations who might not have been exposed to the rosary before.”
Area coordinators Stan and Maxine Wiechert echoed similar hopes for the event.
“We believe this evening of prayer will be a wonderful opportunity for people of all ages to discover or rediscover the beauty of the rosary and the love of Jesus truly present in the Holy Eucharist,” said Maxine Wiechert.
The Oct. 24 rosary rally is just one of several regional rosary rallies being held across the Archdiocese of Kansas City in Kansas and the Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph. The regional rallies are part of a coordinated effort to encourage Catholics from northeast Kansas, northwest Missouri and beyond to participate in the Eucharistic Family Rosary Crusade that will take place at Kauffman Stadium, home of the Kansas City Royals, in May 2008.