October 4, 2008
Parishioner’s efforts spread pro-life rosary to a broad audience
By Denise MacLachlan
Hundreds of thousands of the distinctive multi-colored rosaries have been shipped all over the world from the Office of Pro-Life Issues in the Diocese of Lafayette, La. Cathy Joyce/Herald photo
The pro-life rosary devotion is a grassroots movement that spreads more like a grass fire.
Thanks to the efforts of Jackie Whittle, a parishioner at St. Joseph Marello Parish in Granite Bay, the pro-life rosary meditations that came into the thoughts of a nursing student in Louisiana during eucharistic adoration in 1992 are now broadcast over the air and streamed through computer connections every weekday afternoon on Immaculate Heart Radio.
Hundreds of thousands of the distinctive multi-colored rosaries have been shipped all over the world from the Office of Pro-Life Issues in the Diocese of Lafayette, La., according to the office’s director, Karol Meynard.
Since 1992, she said, the two-person office has shipped the rosaries and their accompanying prayer cards, free of charge, throughout the United States and Canada as well as to Mexico, Haiti, Equador, France, China, Africa, India and Russia.
The pro-life rosary is a devotion aimed at ending abortion and building a culture of life across the globe.
Prayers preceding each decade provide a meditative focus: the first decade is offered for the intentions of the Immaculate Heart of Mary and for world peace; the second offers reparations for the deaths of those aborted and asks for repentance from their parents; the third decade offers reparations for the medical profession and asks for the conversion of medical practitioners; the fourth decade prays for stronger pro-life laws and the reversion of pro-death laws; and the final decade prays for those who work for life and for an end to all pro-death activities.
Nursing student Deanna Westberry, at St. Genevieve Parish in the Lafayette Diocese, typed up the prayers in one sitting, she reported, after sitting with the Blessed Sacrament each day during advent in 1992. Westberry’s spiritual director, Most Holy Sacrament Sister Camille Le Bert, gave a copy of the prayers to then-director Brenda Desormeaux at the diocesan Pro-Life Issues Office. Desormeaux had the prayer cards printed and distributed, along with instructions on how to make the colorful rosaries.
“I knew immediately that it was straight from heaven,” Desormeaux recalled. “Deanna was busy in school, and she said that she was turning the whole thing over to us. She said if the rosary was truly inspired, it would grow. Well, it did.”
Desormeaux sent prayer cards and rosaries to each of the parishes in her diocese, as well as to any diocese in the country where she had a connection to someone from the national pro-life movement, she said.
Two thousand miles away, Whittle received a pro-life rosary from her friend Sylvia Gilchrist in 1994.
“Silvia had made the rosary with the instructions from a prayer card that literally dropped at her feet at Emmaus Catholic bookstore,” Whittle recalled. Whittle showed the rosary to her spiritual director, Oblate of St. Joseph Father John Warburton, who was so enthusiastic about the devotion that he suggested she start a “Pro-Life Rosary Project” to bring the rosary to the widest possible audience.
Father Warburton remains a strong advocate of the pro-life rosary. He said in an e-mail from Rome, where he is attending a meeting of the provincials of the Oblates of St. Joseph worldwide, that the pro-life rosary combines the intercessory power of the rosary with a focus on what he considers to be the most critical issue of today, the attack on human life in any form.
In 1995, under Father Warburton’s guidance, Whittle began the work of making and distributing pro-life rosaries and prayer cards in Sacramento. She found rosary makers and materials through the Lafayette office, but once the project was underway, rosary makers found her, she said.
“You wouldn’t believe how many people contact me to ask for instructions or offer to make rosaries for us to distribute,” she noted with a laugh. “There is no lack of rosaries, ever.”
To continue her outreach, Whittle asked Ricardo Olvera, former editor of El Heraldo Catolico (Spanish-language monthly of the Sacramento Diocese), to translate the prayers into Spanish in 1999, she said.
By the year 2000, Whittle was able to make a recording of the pro-life rosary prayed by seminarians at Mount St. Joseph Novitiate and Seminary in Loomis, led by then-Auxiliary Bishop Richard J. Garcia. Whittle’s son Matthew Whittle was the sound engineer for the project, recording the rosary’s recitation and mixing it with music provided by Catholic recording artist Mary Rotela.
The recording has been broadcast weekdays at 1:30 p.m. on Immaculate Heart Radio since 2001, bringing the rosary to the California’s Central Valley and the north state, to New Mexico and parts of Nevada and Arizona, and to everyone who can access it by a computer. People can listen to the pro-life rosary online as far away as Africa and Australia.
When Bishop Garcia was installed as bishop of Monterey, he brought the rosary with him and posted the prayers on the diocesan Web site. He said he’s pleased that the pro-life rosary “is pretty much all around the United States where we have Catholic radio.”
“When I first moved to Monterey Diocese, we didn’t have Catholic radio,” he said, “but now we have it coming in a little bit at the northern part of the diocese from the San Francisco station. People really enjoy it.
“People from different parts of the country have commented to me that they hear my voice and that they really like praying with the rosary,” the bishop said. “I feel such gratitude that so many people are able to pray to our Blessed Mother with me and others with the rosary.”