Virgin of the Poor Shrine in New Hope is site of global relay to pray for the gift of priesthood
By Janice Fritz-Ryken
Stifling heat and rain showers did not diminish the devotions of nearly 50 parishioners from the Diocese of Knoxville who recently made the trek to a small shrine in Marion County to take part in a worldwide event encompassing Catholic churches from around the globe.
East Tennessee’s participation in the 11th annual Global Rosary Relay took place June 19 at the Virgin of the Poor Shrine in New Hope. The picturesque place of prayer is among the few Roman Catholic shrines in the state.
The annual relay was sponsored by the Worldpriest Global Apostolate. According to its website, the apostolate was founded by an Irish woman, Marion Mulhall, in 2003 to “affirm the dignity, beauty, and gift of the priesthood of Jesus Christ to humanity.”
The event was organized locally by Kelly Rozanski, a member of Our Lady of Lourdes Parish in South Pittsburg who was inspired to bring it to East Tennessee after meeting Ms. Mulhall on a pilgrimage to Ireland last year.
Ms. Rozanski said she was happy with the first year of her parish’s involvement and was very glad to have gotten involved.
“I was so moved by Marion’s desire for this worldwide rosary that I wanted to have our area involved to help her out,” said Ms. Rozanski, who hopes more people will attend the event next year. “Anytime people come together to pray the rosary, anything is possible. And with all that’s been happening, it’s needed more than ever before.”
Participants in the relay prayed the rosary at a scheduled time for 30 minutes to thank God for priests and to ask the Blessed Mother’s protection for priests.
As the rally unfolded, a rosary was prayed around the world for a continuous 24-hour period. Catholics at locations in more than 85 countries prayed during the relay. This year there were more prayer locations than ever before.
And while people attended rosaries at designated shrines and basilicas around the globe, the event also included a gathering of people on the Zoom video conference platform in Rome and at sites around the world who prayed together for Pope Francis’ intentions.
“By the coming of midnight on June 19, 2020, the entire world by then will have been encircled in prayer specifically for our priests on this the annual Rosary Relay Day,” according to a statement from the Worldpriest Global Apostolate website.
The local event drew parishioners from Our Lady of Lourdes, St. Jude, Our Lady of Perpetual Help, and the Basilica of Sts. Peter and Paul in Chattanooga, and the Legion of Mary. Participants were ready and waiting for their “leg” of the relay to begin after it was handed off to New Hope by the Metropolitan Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception of Mary in Managua, Nicaragua.
Ms. Rozanski, who moved to East Tennessee several years ago from Illinois with her husband, Chris, described finding her parish as a God thing.
“We had moved down here from a huge archdiocese filled with thousands of Catholic families, and we worried we might have to drive more than a half hour to find a Catholic church,” Ms. Rozanski said.
“We never expected to find other solid Catholics in our small southern town or to experience the closeness we now have here with our fellow parishioners. We love our family at Our Lady of Lourdes and especially Father (Mark) Scholz. We truly feel it was an unexpected gift, and I was so thrilled that everyone wanted to be a part of this event,” she continued.
Another organizer of the event was Theresa Slaughter, a parishioner of St. Jude for nearly 45 years, who echoed Ms. Rozanski’s hope for a larger turnout in 2021.
“I, of course, hope for even more participants next year, but on this first day of summer and after we have all been locked under quarantine for months, I’m just happy to see other parishioners from the diocese,” Ms. Slaughter said, adding she was especially happy to make a trip to the shrine to be a part of such an important event.
“I love this shrine, and many people don’t even know it’s here. It was so important we do this because our priests really need extraordinary grace in this difficult time of shepherding the flock,” Ms. Slaughter explained. “There’s so much spiritual warfare out there, and we need the intercession of our Mother Mary to protect us all, most especially our priests.”
Hot, muggy weather gave way to gentle rain as praying parishioners walked the grounds of the shrine and prayed the luminous mysteries decade of the rosary. After their half-hour rosary concluded, a blessing was given by Father Scholz, Father John Dowling, pastor of St. Augustine Parish in Signal Mountain, and Deacon Gaspar DeGaetano, who serves at the basilica.
The rosary was concluded, and the next leg was passed on to the Basilica of the National Shrine of Our Lady of Aparecida in Brazil.
Father Scholz, who serves as pastor of Our Lady of Lourdes and Shepherd of the Valley Parish in Dunlap, was not disappointed at the number of faithful taking part in the rosary rally. He said he was happy to see any people willing to travel across the Chattanooga area and from throughout the diocese to pray at the shrine on a Friday afternoon on the first day of summer.
“The rosary is a very powerful weapon, and Our Lady calls us to use this weapon. Seeing how people made time to come here today makes me happy,” said Father Scholz, who reminds people that in times of turbulence, Mother Mary always asks them to pray the rosary. “It is always encouraging to see people take part in this powerful devotion. When people pray together to recognize and bless the work of priests, you can feel it, and I really felt it here today.”
Our Lady of Perpetual Help parishioner Bo Cline was another participant who was happy to attend the rosary relay. A World War II veteran who turned 100 in January, Mr. Cline stood off to the side of the shrine chapel to pray with his wife, Libby, as others walked the grounds, praying the rosary in the rain.
As a centenarian, Mr. Cline still is as spry as those many years his junior. He and his wife are dedicated to praying the rosary, and they spent time enjoying the grounds of the shrine.
When asked the secret to a long life, Mr. Cline said that eating a chocolate covered graham cracker every day keeps him healthy, alert, and happy.
“I eat them every single day of my life,” Mr. Cline said, adding that one more practice helps with longevity. “Oh, yes, and I pray the rosary.”