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Rosary Congress opens with Mass at Baltimore Basilica

Archbishop William E. Lori opened the Archdiocese of Baltimore’s inaugural rosary congress with a Mass at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary in Baltimore Oct. 7.

The Our Lady of Fatima Rosary Congress, a week-long devotion of prayer with the rosary, concludes Oct. 13, the centennial of the apparition of the Blessed Virgin Mary in Fatima, Portugal.

During his homily, the archbishop spoke of the history of the miraculous 1917 event, when the Blessed Virgin Mary appeared to three small children, Lucia Santos and her cousins, Jacinta and Francisco Marto. It was a time, he said, when the world was amid a “global war,” World War I.

Mary’s message was one of repentance and hope during what seemed to be the most violent time in human history, according to the archbishop.

Members of the Baltimore Basilica choir sing as eucharistic adoration begins in the chapel of the Baltimore Basilica following Mass to open the Our Lady of Fatima Rosary Congress, Oct. 7. (Kevin J. Parks/CR Staff)

Recent events in Las Vegas and the devastating hurricanes that hit the southern U.S. and Caribbean suggest that same turmoil continues today.

Mass proceeded in its usual fashion, with hymns sung by the choir echoing throughout the historic church. The closing procession took a different turn, as the celebrants made their way up the side north aisle of the Basilica, past the St. John Paul II statue, towards the steps behind the altar, which lead to the undercroft and chapel.

Once in the chapel, a small contingent from the Basilica choir sang as Deacon Robert M. Shephard placed the Blessed Sacrament in the monstrance, to be displayed continuously during the Rosary Congress. Kneeling before the monstrance, Archbishop Lori blessed the Eucharist with incense to begin adoration and the official start of the praying of the rosary.

Approximately 30 worshippers made their way to the chapel, including Andre Delfer, a parishioner of St. Jude Shrine, a few blocks west of the Basilica.

“Because of the 100th anniversary of Fatima, I had to be here,” said Delfer, who prays the rosary daily and was making his first visit to the Basilica chapel. “I think it’s wonderful to be a part of. Each bead (of the rosary) is a person we can pray for.”

The Trinidad native went on to describe his first visit to Baltimore, in 1988, to see his mother-in-law, when his spiritual transformation took place.

“I had no devotion to God, Mary, anything,” Delfer said.

During a subsequent Mother’s Day visit to Baltimore, he saw the Blessed Virgin Mary as his spiritual mother. He and his wife have been in Baltimore since.

A worshiper prays before the Blessed Sacrament in the chapel of Baltimore Basilica as part of the Our Lady of Fatima Rosary Congress, which began Oct. 7. (Kevin J. Parks/CR Staff)

Adorers received a rosary prayer book. Rosaries were available on a table for those who did not bring their own.

Silent prayer followed the blessing with incense. Without prompting, those in the chapel, including Delfer, took turns leading the various mysteries of the rosary. More than an hour later, worshipers one-by-one quietly left the chapel.

Jim Dotterweich, a Harford County resident and Basilica parishioner, signed up to pray before the Blessed Sacrament from 9-11 p.m. that evening.

“It’s ultimately to pray before Jesus and to get know him better and for the sake of other people,” said Dotterweich, a Colorado native who moved to Baltimore three years ago.

He mentioned a few friends who were in need prayer also inspired him to pray at the Basilica, as it was important for them to know “they are loved.”

The archbishop spoke of how, in praying the rosary, we ask Mary to take the prayers “we store up in our hearts” to the Lord Jesus.

Archbishop Lori asks everyone to spend 15-20 minutes a day praying the rosary on the way to work, before bed, or with family, as, he said, it makes a tremendous difference in our lives.

Click here for locations and schedules for the Our Lady of Fatima Rosary Congress.