Embracing Marian devotion

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Embracing Marian devotion

When people are properly introduced to Marian devotion, they love it, says Fr Paschal Okpon, assistant priest at Mersey-Leven Parish who celebrated Mass during the parish’s annual rosary pilgrimage last month.

The October 6 event – now running for its seventeen year – encompassed the parish’s six churches, with pilgrims travelling by bus to each location.

It was one of several public Marian prayer initiatives held around Tasmania in October, a month traditionally associated with the rosary.

Fr Okpon says he’s been surprised to discover that some Catholics don’t understand the rosary, but that when they do encounter Mary in prayer, she leads them closer to Jesus.
“When they see the beauty [of the rosary], they can’t stop,” Fr Okpon said.

“The young people that come across it as well, they love it.”
While numbers on the pilgrimage have dropped over the years, in other parts of the state numbers at Marian events have increased.

A public rosary held in Launceston on October 12 saw numbers jump from 110 last year more than 180 this year.
“I’m very, very pleased because it’s growing. It’s amazing,” said organiser Mary Siejka, 90.

Passers-by were attracted to the large group, with some taking photos of the large banner of Mary that was on display.

Fr Ben Brooks, Fr Crisanto Mendoza and Fr Edwin Thundathil Xavier joined in with the prayers, while the Palavra Viva Catholic Community sang between decades of the rosary.
“We had families, we had a few younger ones. Perhaps mostly we were [seniors], but we had quite a few young ones,” Mrs Siejka said.

The theme of younger people attending Marian events was echoed in Hobart where, later that same day, a public rosary was held outside St Mary’s Cathedral.

The event drew a smaller crowd of around 50 attendees, led by Archbishop Julian, but included a diverse range of ages, including a number of young adults and families. Like the Launceston event, the public rosary was linked to an initiative to pray rosaries in public around the world in honour of Our Lady of Fatima.

Organiser Helen Sidhu says she believes it’s important to be offering a public witness of prayer, at a time when the images and beliefs of Christianity seem to be under attack.

“I actually saw there were a lot of people who I hadn’t seen before,” said Mrs Sidhu, who says she has been encouraged by the Archbishop’s hope that the event will increase in size.

On the same day, St Paul’s Church in Bridgewater was filled with people of all ages taking part in a Marian Festival, now running for the second year, and organised by the parish’s Family Cenacle Group.

Festival-goers were encouraged to bring their own statues of Mary to carry in a candlelight procession through the church grounds.

The procession ended the day of festivities that began at 3pm which included the rosary, Eucharistic adoration, music, testimonies and Mass.

Key organiser Catherine De Leon encouraged festival-goers speak with Mary from their hearts, as their mother.
“Some of the people [knelt] there and couldn’t stop crying,” Mrs De Leon recounted.

The power of encountering Mary is something to which Mrs De Leon, 42, of Austins Ferry, can relate.

She credits Mary with bringing her and her husband back to God after years of being distracted by the busyness of life and work.

After moving to Australia from the Philippines, Mrs De Leon says the rhythm of life in Australia and the secular culture meant she no longer prioritized attending Mass on Sundays, and put other activities first.

She was asked by a friend who was part of a Sydney-based Family Cenacle Group if she’d like to have a state of Mary visit her home. Being culturally Catholic, she said: ‘Why not?’

The statue of Mary to her home was the beginning of her journey back to God and practicing her Catholic faith.

“That’s why I love Mama Mary so much, and I’m trying to follow her virtue,” Mrs De Leon said.

“She’s the best example of a human being.”