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‘Rosary priest’ to be honored with sculpture

By Dexter R. Matilla
Philippine Daily Inquirer
First Posted 03:31:00 04/27/2009

Filed Under: Arts (general), Religion & Belief

?A WORLD AT PRAYER is a world at peace? is probably the simplest and most logical way to respond to the age-old question of how the world can achieve peace.

The beauty of the message is that its plea to everyone is to do something that can be done at any place and at any time?that is, to pray. The man who popularized this message was Fr. Patrick Peyton.

In his 51 years of ministry devoted to the Blessed Mother, her Rosary and to families, Peyton conducted 40 Rosary rallies around the world, drawing 28 million people, including two million in Brazil (1964) and in the Philippines (1985). Thus, he has been known as the Rosary Priest.

He founded the Family Rosary Crusade, and in 1947 the Family Theater, which has produced over 800 radio programs and 83 TV specials featuring top stars such as Bing Crosby, Loretta Young, Frank Sinatra, Jimmy Stewart, Bob Hope, Irene Dunne, Gregory Peck, Lucille Ball, Henry Fonda, Rosalind Russell, Jack Benny, James Cagney, Raymond Burr, Barbara Stanwyck, Margaret O?Brien, Helen Hayes, Natalie Wood, and Maureen O?Hara, Jane Wyatt, Ronald Reagan and Shirley Temple.

The Family Theater radio series, which featured hundreds of famous actors, was broadcast on the Mutual Broadcasting System from 1947 to 1969, making it one of the longest-running weekly dramatic radio programs in history.

Canonization cause

Peyton died on June 3, 1992. The cause for his sainthood was formally announced on June 1, 2001, by Bishop Sean O?Malley, formerly of the Fall River, Massachusetts diocese. Peyton has since been bestowed the title ?Servant of God.?

This year marks the 100th birth anniversary of Peyton, who was born on January 9, 1909, in Caracastle, County Mayo, Ireland, to a family that prayed the Rosary nightly in their home.

Several public activities all over the world have been staged since January 1 in honor of the priest. The year-long celebration, with the theme ?Honor his memory, continue his mission,? includes a Mass at St. Joseph Church which will be celebrated by Sean Cardinal Brady of Armagh and will be broadcast all over Ireland. It will also feature the unveiling of a seven-foot statue of Peyton by Filipino artist Joey Velasco.

Velasco, who will fly to Ireland for the event, describes it as historical and momentous, not only because he was the one chosen to do the sculpture over four other artists from the United States, South America and Ireland, but also due to the obstacles he was able to overcome during the creation process.

While in the middle of finishing the sculpture, Velasco experienced bleeding in his urine and had been scheduled to undergo surgery in January.

?I did the project with much prayer and devotion in spite of the fact that I am not an exemplary Christian,? Velasco says. ?I felt so unworthy of such grace. I asked for his intercession, and I received healing from him, first in the serenity from the total surrender that I felt, and physically, the bleeding suddenly stopped. I did this task to honor Father Peyton and his deep filial trust in Mary. I did this very difficult task in my lowest and weakest moment. For as St. Paul said, ?It is when I am weak, that I am made strong.??

Artistic guidance

Throughout, the artist was also helped by portraitist Norman Sustiguer; Family Rosary Crusade national director Brother Bernard Canaberal; and international director Father Jim Phalen, who posed for Velasco to demonstrate the ways and characteristics of Peyton.

Velasco adds that he felt pressured trying to bring to life a man he has never met and was on the road to canonization.

The superior general of the Congregation of the Holy Cross, Peyton?s order, also went to Velasco?s studio several times just to check on the statue?s progress.

?It was hard to sculpt someone you did not see in person,? Velasco says. ?But I was guided with videos and pictures of the saintly founder, and his autobiographical book, ?All for Her,? served as a spiritual guide.?

Working on the sculpture, Velasco used his intuition and imagination to fill the blind spots. He had to revise it five times to get Peyton?s likeness.

To guide him through, Velasco was sent an old barong Peyton wore.

?It was beside me when I was working on the monument, and I felt his presence,? Velasco says. ?One thing I realized is that in all his years, Father Peyton?s passion had been strong.?

Famous message

It is this same passion for prayer that Phalen would like Filipinos, especially the youth, to embrace.

?Father Peyton?s message is one that is timeless, for all generations,? Phalen said during a visit to Velasco?s residence. ?It is a simple message of staying close to God, realizing that what?s most important is finding love and happiness, and knowing where you belong.?

Other activities are planned throughout the year in Bangladesh, Brazil, Chile, Peru, Uruguay. Most of the international offices will conduct the annual ?Try Prayer! It Works!? contest on Peyton?s famous message ?The family that prays together, stays together.?

K-12 graders submit artworks, poetry and essays that reflect the theme. Chapters throughout the world of the Father Peyton Guild, promoting his cause for beatification, will sponsor various Rosary activities, while several Catholic television outlets will be scheduling biographical programs on Peyton and selected programs the Catholic media pioneer produced.

?His most sacred insight, the goal toward which his whole fascinating life was directed, was to encourage families to come together daily to pray the Rosary. He saw so many benefits to this simple practice,? said Fr. John Phalen, CSC, president of the Holy Cross Family Ministries, in a message early this year. ?Let 2009 be a year of strengthening the family through the family Rosary!?

Simple prayer

Phalen is inviting families to pray the novena of Rosaries for ?world peace and any particular petitions dear to the hearts of your family members,? and to add this simple prayer for Father Peyton?s beatification at the end of the Rosary:

?Dear Jesus, Father Peyton devoted his priestly life to strengthening the families of the world by calling them to pray together every day, especially the Rosary. His message is as important for us now as it was during his life on earth. We beg you, therefore, to hasten the day of his beatification so that your faithful people everywhere will remember his message that the family that prays together stays together, will imitate him in his devotion to your Mother and ours, and will be inspired by his holy life to draw ever closer to you with childlike confidence and love. Amen.?

Holy Cross Family Ministries consists of Family Rosary; Family Rosary International, with 16 locations throughout the world, including the center in Ireland; the Father Peyton Family Institute, Easton, and Lima, Peru; and Family Theater Productions, Hollywood. It is sponsored by the Congregation of Holy Cross.

To participate in the anniversary observance, families and individuals can sign up on the organization?s website (www.hcfm.org) to pray a family novena and also to list their intentions and to pray for other intentions that have been posted on the site by other individuals. Additional information is available by calling toll-free 1-800-299-PRAY (7729).

E-mail the author at dxmatilla@yahoo.com



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