“It was an impressive moment for all involved,” reported John Nellikunnel, Bishop of Idukki, India. He was delighted about the campaign “One Million Children Praying the Rosary”, which the pontifical foundation Aid to the Church in Need (ACN) carried out again this year on 18 October.
“It was only at the beginning of October – about two weeks before – that I read about the campaign quite by accident in a leaflet and thought: We have to take part in this!”, the bishop explained during a visit to the international headquarters of ACN. “Our Syro Malabar Eparchy has 80 Catholic schools, each of which provides instruction for up to 1,000 students. I immediately sat down with those in charge and the organisers so that we could carry out this campaign – and it was worth it: in all, more than 26,000 of the about 30,000 pupils aged from six to 18 years took part with joy,” Bishop Nellikunnel was pleased to report. About 785,000 inhabitants live in his eparchy, a third of whom are Catholic.
“At the specified time – because of the time difference, at one o’clock in the afternoon –children and adolescents prayed the rosary, but also sang songs and held processions around their schools,” the bishop reported. “For many, this was a moving witness to their faith.” He then explained that, as October is the month of the rosary and rosary processions are being held regularly anyway, many of the children prayed the rosary again that evening together with their families. And he was pleased to note that the organisers had received a lot of feedback afterwards. They were told that many of the pupils had considered it a great gift to experience a practical and concrete show of solidarity with other children based on their shared faith.
Lived faith – 90 per cent of his parishioners attend church every Sunday – is a great consolation to him, the bishop said, referring to the many problems that otherwise need to be faced in his eparchy. According to the bishop, the region is under-developed in comparison with the rest of the country and regular rainfalls and flooding not only cause fatalities, but also time and again lead to dramatic losses in harvests. “For the farmers, this often means a battle for survival,” he reported. A circumstance that makes John Nellikunnel all the more grateful that ACN has been supporting the region for many years in the formation of faith, the building of churches and church institutions, educational scholarships for priests as well as Mass stipends. “Your benefactors are a true blessing for us, they continue to be needed!”
The campaign “One Million Children Praying the Rosary” was initiated in 2005 in the Venezuelan capital of Caracas after a number of children prayed the rosary at a wayside shrine, leading the women who were present to deeply experience the presence of the Virgin Mary. In keeping with the promise of Saint Padre Pio – “When one million children pray the rosary, the world will change” – the campaign is intended to strengthen the faith in the power of children’s prayers.
This year, the special focus of the campaign was mission, as Pope Francis has designated the month of October as the Extraordinary Missionary Month. With the motto “Baptised and Sent: The Church of Christ on Mission in the World”, the missionary spirit was revived worldwide through pastoral and spiritual initiatives. Missionaries and new missionary vocations were the focus of the prayers spoken with the children.