Child Abuse Prevention Month: Rosary for the protection of children

Students from St. Bridget Catholic School, Richmond, lead the rosary at the Pastoral Center, Richmond, April 18, 2024. (Photo/Lily Nguyen Dunkle)

Six students from St. Bridget School, Richmond, visited the Pastoral Center, Richmond, on April 18 and prayed the rosary for the protection of children and families. Bishop Barry C. Knestout was among those who joined the fifth graders in the chapel that morning to pray.

The rosary was one of the diocesan Office of Safe Environment’s observances for Child Abuse Prevention Month.

The students from St. Bridget’s three fifth-grade classes were chosen to lead the rosary based on the essays they wrote, explaining what the rosary means to them. One of the fifth-grade teachers, Mary Brown, introduced the students, then asked each of them to read part of their essay to the group in the chapel.

Aiden was first. “I think the rosary is one of the most powerful ways to pray and grow closer to Jesus and Mary,” he said.

Cate shared that “the first time I prayed the rosary, I remember how I felt such a connection with God.”

Diego quoted St. Alfonso Maria de Ligorio: “Because without prayer there is no salvation.”

Georgia May said, “Praying the rosary means you thought of God and took time to do something in honor of him.”

“To me, the rosary means that God is always with us and that we can see what Jesus has done for us,” explained Benny.

Gracie was the last to share before the rosary began: “The rosary has helped me through hard times, and I am excited to pray this very special series of prayers with you all.”

Bishop Barry C. Knestout prays the rosary at the Pastoral Center, Richmond, April 18, 2024. (Photo/Lily Nguyen Dunkle)

The schoolchildren stood in the front, facing everyone in the chapel, including Pastoral Center staff, Vicar General Father Michael Boehling, and Father Tochi Iwuji, director of the diocesan Office for Black Catholics, who was once assigned at St. Bridget. The students each led one decade of the Glorious Mysteries – except Aiden, who led the start of the rosary and the prayers before the first decade.

The students held unique rosaries each had made for themselves in class. Georgia May made 3D-printed beads of different shapes, including stars and hearts, and beads with letters that spell out “PRAY.” Benny created his rosary with colorful LEGO blocks, saying afterward that LEGOs are his favorite toy. Gracie’s rosary was made of light green beads, a small bouquet of blue flowers in the middle, and letter beads that read: “LOVE” and “I AM ENOUGH.”

Aiden, Cate, and Diego focused their rosaries on specific color themes. Diego said he chose white and gold beads because “they are peaceful colors.” Cate’s rosary featured pearly pastels with a pink centerpiece. Aiden’s beads were a light blue color with a glimmery sheen.

Mrs. Brown joyfully shared that former students have told her they continue to use their handmade rosaries well into high school.

After the rosary, Bishop Knestout stood up and thanked the students in front of everyone, telling them, “We are all called to lead each other in prayer … and you’ve done that wonderfully, assisting all of us in prayer.”

The bishop then walked over to the students and added, “It’s really hard to stand in front of people and pray. You all did a great job!”

In addition to Mrs. Brown, Principal Allie Strollo and Assistant Principal Bridget Nilsen were also there to support the students.

St. Bridget Catholic School, Richmond, presented a gift to the Office of Safe Environment on April 18, 2024. (Photo/Lily Nguyen Dunkle)

Nilsen presented the bishop and the Office of Safe Environment with a gift: a framed picture of a rosary. On each of the six large beads was written the names of the principal, assistant principal, three fifth-grade teachers, and the fifth-grade assistant teacher. The name of each fifth-grade student in the school was written on the small beads.

The fifth graders were chosen for the rosary at the Pastoral Center because they have a “First Friday Living Rosary” each month.

Nilsen said it was wonderful to see their students share with the bishop and the rest of the diocese what the rosary means to them. “Mrs. Strollo and I are so proud of the students and teachers. … It really speaks about our school and our Catholic identity.”

Nazia Shafi, director of the Office of Safe Environment, said, “To have our bishop and vicar general – along with other clergy and pastoral center staff – pray the rosary with the students was extremely meaningful.”

She added, “Together as a Church, we are praying for victims of child abuse and for the future protection of all children.”


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