Monthly Archives: October 2018

The Day of the Dead in Latin America

DiadelosMuertosThere is a history of celebrations in most of the indigenous peoples of Latin America, the Aztec, Mexica, Maya, Purépecha, Nahua and Totonaca ethnic groups. The rituals that celebrate the life of the ancestors have been carried out in these civilizations for at least three thousand years. In the pre-Hispanic era, it was common to keep the skulls as trophies and to show them during the rituals that symbolized death and rebirth.

The idea of death in pre-Hispanic cultures in Latin America is conceived as an event that involves a change that should not be understood as the end of a cycle, but as the continuation of it. Moreover, it keeps a harmonic (cyclical) relationship with life, since it is the origin and consequence of it.

Throughout Latin America, the native peoples celebrate their dead not with pain, but understanding death as one more stage of life. In this way, from Mexico to Chile there are dances, chicha, garlands with flowers and at all the tables an empty place is left to wait for the arrival of the deceased loved one who during “Día de los Muertos” will be with his beloved ones.

The pre-Hispanic burials were accompanied by offerings that contained two types of objects: those that, in life, had been used by the deceased, and those that he might need in his transit to the underworld. In this way, the elaboration of funerary objects was very varied: musical instruments of clay, such as ocarinas, flutes, kettledrums and rattles in the shape of skulls; sculptures that represented the mortuary gods, skulls of different materials (stone, jade, crystal), braziers, incense burners and urns.

“The expansion of Catholicism in Latin America re-signified the cults to the dead, from Mexico to the highlands of Argentina, and many of these rituals happened to be held on November 1, All Saints Day, or November 2, All Souls Day, keeping the original characteristics conjugated with Catholic beliefs. “These dates are part of the construction of new identities where the indigenous past coexists, the European past and a good present of ours “, explains the anthropologist Fernando Pepe.

For our native peoples “life is not linear, it is not that we are born, grow and die but it is a cycle: The body returns to the pacha (earth) but the spirit, energy, soul or newen, as the Mapuches call it, goes to another level and on the day of the soul a passage opens and they visit us again.

In contrast to the European tradition, which tinges with sadness and pain on this day, where the living will bring flowers to the dead, the ancestral custom of our indigenous peoples gives a strong color and symbolic charge to this day, no tears among the original peoples, there is joy and celebration: death and life, life and death are complementary processes. In this way the Collas, Quechuas, Mapuches, Querandí­es, and Diaguitas communities prepare their best meals and drink their favorite drinks to honor their dead who, at some point on this day, will find a way to return to their homes, visiting friends, loved ones and family.

The Day of the Dead is celebrated in many different ways depending on the origin and traditions of each country and community. In Latin America, this day represents in many countries a holiday full of colors and cheerful motifs that refer to death, but from another perspective. With the heritage of indigenous culture, Latin Americans who celebrate this day take the opportunity to meet spiritually with their beloved ancestors and thus celebrate life.

vista-de-una-ofrenda-para-los-muertos-en-ciudad-de-mexico-_595_394_92714The best-known celebration of the “Dí­a de los Muertos” in the United States is that of Mexico because of its proximity to the US. UNESCO has declared the Mexican Indigenous festivity dedicated to the dead to be An Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity.

Celebrations of the Day of the Dead take place in major cities across the U.S., especially in San Antonio, Los Angeles, Chicago, Phoenix and in the small towns in these areas.

Diadelosmuertos3In Bolivia, the ceremony begins at 12:00 noon on November 1 until noon on November 2 (holiday). It is believed that “on November 1 at noon the ajayus return from their mountains to live together for 24 hours with their family and friends.” This ritual consists in the donation of offerings to the souls, by means of “an altar or table also called apxata that is adorned with flowers, candles, canes, fruits, drinks and sweets, in addition to other elements”.

One of the elements that forms part of the altar is the “tantawawa”. The tantawawa is a cake of approximately 50 cm “with human form and a colorful face that is modeled in stucco and that represents the deceased”. The ladder of bread is another component of the apxata that symbolizes the ascent of souls to heaven.

A very common activity in those dates is the traditional visit to the cemetery, where people come together to receive the souls of their dead among offerings, prayers and music. In the event that the deceased has died the same year, a table or altar is made. A very popular custom is “to make pray”, it is about hiring someone (yatiri, musician or rezador) to raise a prayer or dedicate a song to the deceased.

07-blog-brasilIn Brazil, the celebration similar to the Day of the Dead (as we know it in Mexico and most of Latin America) is the Day of Commemoration of the Faithful Dead. This celebration is Christian tradition brought by the Portuguese, the European country that conquered Brazil. There was not a large civilization and they did not have large and recognized celebrations.

The day of the deceased or Commemoration of the Faithful Dead is celebrated on November 2. On this day the family members bring flowers to the dead. It is not customary to bring them food. On this day the priests say three funeral masses except when November 2 falls on a Sunday. Many people pray this day to the souls that are in purgatory so they can go out. In Brazil, they don’t make altars, but the closest people bring them flowers representing all the love and respect they had for the deceased. Some people also take some things that belonged to the deceased and put them in their grave.

Many people in Brazil visit the cemeteries to visit the graves of their family and friends. In Sao Paulo, the largest city in Brazil, almost two million people visit the municipal cemeteries, while in Rio de Janeiro the figure is even higher at 2.5 million people.

dia-de-muertos-13Mictecací­huatl, the Lady of Death, walks among the living through the streets of the town of Tonacatepeque, El Salvador, where the night of each November 1 is celebrated as the Day of Calabiuza in her honor and that of her husband, Mictlantecuhtli, and in tribute to the deceased.

The night is filled with the undead with costumes representative of the mythology of El Salvador, who walk to the sounds of their own canticles, whose lyrics – “Angels are from heaven and we are asking for a spoil for our way mino mino” – is repeated incessantly between cries and cries that represent pain for the absent.

The Day of the Faithful Dead is one of the dates of great importance for Salvadorans who visit the cemeteries to remember their loved ones. Also, they take advantage of this day to celebrate the lives of those who are still alive.

There are five traditions of Salvadorans to remember the faithful departed.

  1. Enflorar
    Every year the families will fill with flowers the graves of their loved ones who have died. For many people in the community it is very painful not knowing where the bodies are of their relatives killed by the war and they feel a great pain because they cannot fill with flowers their tombs. Crowns and arrangements are sold, natural and artificial flowers, as well as other materials that serve to decorate the tombs, with this activity the cemeteries end up full of colo.
  2. Clean the tombs
    The family takes paint, brushes, brooms among other items to clean and renew the tombs and niches of their loved ones.
  3. Bring music
    There are many musical groups where many people request the favorite songs of their loved ones when they were alive.
  4. Traditional dishes
    The typical food is also tasted on this day. Pupusas de chipilín, tamales, yuca frita or hojuelas with honey of panelas. It is also customary to make ayote with honey.
  5. Religious activities
    In most of the cemeteries, special masses or cults are celebrated to remember the loved ones on this date.

Three lawyers’ journeys to service on the MKLM board

Bob Carlsen, Mike Cammarota and Terry Miller
‘go forth and serve’ with MKLM

Bob Carlsen (left) and Mike Cammarota with children in Nepal

Bob Carlsen (left) and Mike Cammarota with children in Nepal

By Lori Herz

Bob Carlsen can’t give up his Maryknoll magazine collection. Hundreds of issues sit in a box in his basement, containing thousands of stories he read growing up in Queens and on Long Island in the 1960s and 1970s. Back then, the print publication was a staple of Catholic parishes and households, and its vivid content brought home the work of Maryknoll, featuring the missionary work of the Maryknoll Fathers and Brothers, the Maryknoll Sisters and later, the Maryknoll Lay Missioners (MKLM). It has been a pillar of the U.S. Catholic Church’s global mission for more than 100 years.

“The magazine fascinated me,” Carlsen says. “It was like the intersection of National Geographic and [the Brooklyn diocesan newspaper] The Tablet. It showed priests and nuns traveling by donkey and motorcycle to visit communities in the Andes, working with tribes in Africa, and serving in remote parts of Asia. They became conversant in many tribal languages, allowing them to connect with the local people.

“As a kid interested in language and culture, and raised in a strong faith tradition, those stories played a big role in opening up the ‘world church’ to me. So when a missioner came to Sunday Mass and passed out cards stating ‘Check the box if you’re interested in joining Maryknoll,’ I turned to my mom and said, ‘Check the box!’”

Now, several decades after that enthusiastic response, Carlsen is on the board of directors of Maryknoll Lay Missioners. Serving alongside him is his good friend of 30 years, business associate, and fellow St. John’s Law School alumnus Mike Cammarota. Over the past eight years, the two have also lived the MKLM mission on short-term immersion and volunteer trips with the organization’s Friends Across Borders program to El Salvador, Bangladesh, Nepal, Bolivia, and, most recently, Tanzania.

Like Carlsen, Cammarota is a Queens native who grew up in a Catholic family that encouraged faith-based volunteerism. After graduating from the law school, Cammarota started in IBM’s legal department, where he worked for 20 years. Every year he returned to St. John’s to connect with law students who had accepted positions at IBM. “In 1987, that was Bob Carlsen, and we hit it off immediately” he recalls.

Carlsen’s work for IBM took him across the country and around the world. As senior counsel in IBM’s software business, he relocated to Bangalore, India, where he spent two years advising the company’s software labs in the region.

“Living as an expat in India turned into the greatest spiritual journey of my life,” he says. “I was with Hindus, Muslims, Jains, and others in a big, churning country that was just starting to feel its global presence. The Gandhi history and legacy, and the deep personal commitment to holiness I saw in so many Indians, strengthened my Catholic faith tremendously.” In his memoir, Sacred Dust on Crowded Streets: Conversations with India (Trafford, 2010) Carlsen deftly recounts his life-changing experiences in India.

 From left, Father Bill Vos, Bob Carlsen and Mike Cammarota on the shores of Lake Victoria during a Friends Across Borders trip to Tanzania.

From left, Father Bill Vos, Bob Carlsen and Mike Cammarota on the shores of Lake Victoria during a Friends Across Borders trip to Tanzania.

Eventually Carlsen left IBM for Accenture, a management consulting and professional services firm where he is now the director of legal services. The move reunited him professionally with Cammarota, who had already become Accenture’s managing director–senior director of legal services, global transactions. “The boys in the band were back together,” says Cammarota, expressing a warm camaraderie that carries over to their service with MKLM, including their most recent mission trip to Tanzania.

“Like our prior missions, Tanzania was a fabulous experience,” says Cammarota. “We stopped in a number of cities to visit with missionaries, work in their missions, and attend Mass with them and the people they support, often in Swahili.”

Mike Cammarota playing flash cards with school children in Tanzania.

Mike Cammarota playing flash cards with school children in Tanzania.

Cammarota took particular delight in interacting with the children they met along the way. “Kids are simply awesome,” he says. “We went to a school run by Maryknoll and they were so happy to show us around and play with us. I was particularly good at flash cards.”

Carlsen explains, “Our Tanzania trip was specially designed by Father Bill Vos, an MKLM missioner who worked with rural tribes for 30 years. With his contacts, we visited places the average traveler can’t access, including MKLM mission sites focused on education, women’s empowerment, and self-sustaining communities. It was great to meet some of the successful students and catechists that Father Bill has worked with, such as a young man who, with Maryknoll’s support, studied law at university and became a district court judge.”

Carlsen and Cammarota also traveled to a remote village, where they enjoyed a traditional meal of goat and other foods prepared by a family to celebrate all that Father Bill had done for their son, who had just joined the priesthood. “This is the impact of acting locally and globally according to the Maryknoll way,” Carlsen observes. “Change one person’s life in rural Tanzania, and the pond ripples with new opportunity, new hope, and new dreams for everyone on the path. We saw this time and time again in Africa.”

The insight that Cammarota and Carlsen gain on their lay missions around the world informs their stewardship on MKLM’s board of directors, which is now chaired by another St. John’s Law alumnus, Terry Miller, who is a returned Maryknoll Lay Missioner.

Miller, who is senior international officer at Marquette University in Milwaukee, is equally delighted to work with Carlsen and Cammarota. His MKLM board leadership is rooted in an early desire to advocate for human rights and social justice.

Raised in New York, he was one of six children in a Catholic family that made frequent trips to Maryknoll’s campus. “I made the connection between a legal education, my interest in social justice and working for the economically poor, and my Catholic faith during Sunday family breakfasts with Father Murphy, our parish priest,” Miller shares. “I wanted to use the law to benefit people who didn’t have access to justice.”

While earning his law degree, Miller interned with the Legal Aid Society’s Civil Division in Queens. “It was a great opportunity to apply … the Vincentian value of serving the poor,” he recalls. “That experience helped me get my first full-time job after graduation as a defense attorney with Legal Aid in Brooklyn.”

Looking to broaden his impact, Miller joined MKLM as a lay missioner in the rural Diocese of Linares, Chile. From 1988 to 1991, he worked with the families of individuals who were detained, disappeared, and tortured under General Augusto Pinochet’s brutal dictatorship.

Terry Miler worked as a Maryknoll Lay Missioner on human rights cases in Chile. Here he examines bones from a mass grave of victims of the Pinochet dictatorship.

In the late 1980s, Terry Miller worked as a Maryknoll Lay Missioner on human rights cases in Chile. Here he examines bones from a mass grave of victims of the Pinochet dictatorship.

“Among other duties, I assisted in the investigation and excavation of a mass grave where 17 victims of the repression had been secretly buried,” Miller says. “I also helped prepare Linares diocesan input for the National Commission for Truth and Reconciliation Report on human rights abuses during the dictatorship.” Miller then returned to the United States to head up the Maryknoll Justice and Peace Office (forerunner of the Maryknoll Office of Global Concerns) and to serve MKLM full time in different leadership capacities before starting his career in international studies and education. A year ago, he joined the board of directors to support MKLM’s global commitment to the poor.

For Miller, Cammarota, and Carlsen, their affiliation with MKLM is an integral expression of their Catholic faith and of a lawyer’s duty to serve the greater good. “There are so many lawyers out there wishing they could stretch themselves a bit,” says Carlsen. “I believe that, as a lawyer, you’re a person first. As a Catholic, you’re a force for change in the world. … The world needs committed folks to go forth and serve, and MKLM has plenty of ways to get involved.”

For Cammarota, it’s a simple equation: “I’m a kid from Queens who, through hard work, good luck and help from others, has been able to live a blessed and fulfilling life. I need to give back. We all need to give back.”


Excerpted with permission from an article in the Fall 2018 issue of St. John’s Law, the alumni magazine of the School of Law of St. John’s University in Queens, New York.



Whoever has ears, let them hear

David gives the thumbs up to his newly acquired hearing aid, as his mother, Doña Santusa, and Maryknoll Lay Missioner Filo Siles cheer him on.

Maryknoll Lay Missioners in Bolivia use the 6 Rs to give the gift of hearing.

By Joe Loney
Maryknoll Lay Missioner, Bolivia

COCHABAMBA, Bolivia — When I was in grade school, I recall that the three Rs were reading, (w)riting and (a)rithmetic. When my children were in grade school, they taught me that the three Rs were reduce, reuse and recycle. Today we use all six Rs to bring hearing to children with disabilities.

Maryknoll Lay Missioner Filomena (Filo) Siles and I are part of a mission team that helps children and adults reach their full human potential and to be truly included in society, notwithstanding their physical, hearing, vision, mental and multiple disabilities. Working in two rural municipalities in Cochabamba, Bolivia, we continue to be amazed at the great number of children and adults who daily struggle to hear and often cannot speak.

Some of the persons with whom we collaborate have remnants of hearing and could greatly benefit from hearing aids. Unfortunately, hearing aids are far too expensive for the families who are often subsistence farmers with daily incomes of less than two dollars per day.

One day Filo and I were wondering how we could acquire the financial resources to help those with hearing disability and the arithmetic told us that, at more than $1,000 per child, we simply did not have the funds to help out the numerous children and adults with hearing disabilities.

Doña Santusa´s son David has a hearing disability and is an example of this compelling need. David is a bright, 6-year-old boy, who is just a kindergartner. He is friendly, warmly hugs everyone he meets and loves to draw. At a very early age, Doña Santusa detected that her son David could not hear sounds like other children. One objective of our ministry is to coordinate specialized medical attention to those like David who neither have access to it in their rural communities nor can afford the service. Our hearing specialists in the City of Cochabamba advised us that David has the ability to hear, albeit substantially reduced, and that he could greatly benefit from using a hearing aid.

The Holy Spirit must have descended upon our office because Filo suddenly stated that Maryknoll Sister Joan Murray had given her a winter coat and gloves to survive the November and December weather….and that the coat and gloves were reused, as the Maryknoll Sister who previously wore them had gone on to heaven, where the cold of New York was just a distant memory. I wondered to myself how Sister Joan´s generosity could assist us.

During her orientation to mission life before joining Maryknoll Lay Missioners, Filo met many members of the greater Maryknoll Family. One of the members Filo met was Maryknoll Sister Joan Murray. Having served in Filo´s native Bolivia for many years, Sister Joan graciously guided Filo during the orientation process and they became good friends. Sister Joan shared with Filo that as part of her current ministry she assists many of the retired Maryknoll Sisters so that they can enjoy a dignified life.

Filo wondered aloud if Sister Joan knew of any Maryknoll Sisters who might have utilized hearing aids on earth and were now smiling upon us from heaven.

Following up Filo’s recollection about the generosity of the Maryknoll Sisters and their nursing home, I promptly inquired by writing to Sister Joan, and she quickly responded that she had three pairs of hearing aids which were suitable for reuse. The mission bridge from New York to Cochabamba was strengthened by Irene King, director of mission services for Maryknoll Lay Missioners, who was travelling the next week to Bolivia and graciously agreed to bring the reusable hearing aids to Bolivia.

Just this week, we found a hearing specialist who adapted one of the gently used, reusable hearing aids to meet David´s needs. He immediately learned to say “Mama.” Tears of joy flowed. Our prayers were answered. Collaboration made the difference. The arithmetic puzzle we could not solve, the writing we did to Sister Joan and the reuse we discovered for the hearing aids have become a miracle for David and his mother, Doña Santusa. We have two other young children scheduled to be fitted for the remaining pairs of hearing aids in the coming weeks.

In our ministry, we have met more than 30 children and adults who could benefit from hearing aids. If you know of someone who no longer needs a hearing aid, please consider helping us to give the gift of hearing and contact Maryknoll Lay Missioners.



A moving celebration of St. Óscar Romero

Maryknoll Lay Missioner celebrates the canonization of Archbishop Romero with her Salvadoran parish 

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Monte San Juan parishioners march in procession to their church to celebrate the Oct. 14 canonization of Archbishop Oscar Romero

MONTE SAN JUAN, El Salvador—The canonization of Óscar Arnulfo Romero, the martyred archbishop of San Salvador was a true fiesta. While the actual canonization took place in Rome on Sunday, October 14, the celebration of the new saint in his home country was typically loud and colorful.

In the capital of San Salvador, several venues hosted activities with wide participation by the faithful. I live and work as a Maryknoll Lay Missioner in the rural parish of Monte San Juan, about an hour outside of San Salvador. Rather than go to the big events in the city, I chose to celebrate with the people in our parish, who have become like family to me in the six years that I have lived here now.

Like the San Salvador celebration and those in many parishes around the country, we had a march or procession on Saturday evening, which was followed by a Mass and an all-night vigil. For those who could stay awake, the vigil culminated in watching the papal Mass live from Rome, at 2 a.m. our time.

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Monte San Juan parishioners with their handpainted sign.

Rather than walking the city streets, our march went from the village at one end of the parish the mile or so to the main church in the center of the town. While the vigil in the city included professional musicians and well-choreographed cultural events, ours was home-grown and heart-felt and featured local youths, some “performing” in public for the first time.

We had four choirs from different villages who enlivened the march, another who led the music at Mass and yet another that kept people awake during the night—all with songs about Romero and other music that got people on their feet, clapping and interacting with each other.

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One of the choirs that led singing during the fiesta

Despite some technical problems, we were able to watch a couple of videos about Romero as well as the televised Mass from Rome on a sheet strung up in the church and projected from a laptop computer.

The young people also made a very moving if not flawless presentation of some of the many other martyrs of El Salvador. Those honored include the four U.S. churchwomen (two Maryknoll Sisters, an Ursuline Sister and Jean Donovan, who trained with the Maryknoll Lay Missioners) killed here in 1980, and two catechists from our own parish of Monte San Juan.

One youth group painted a new (the third) Romero mural on the side of the church, this one depicting the new saint among the Salvadoran people and with his friend, also martyred Jesuit Father Rutilio Grande. Our pastor, Father Mauricio Saravia, blessed a new bust of Romero at the entrance of the church.

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Maryknoll Lay Missioner Peg Vamosy (center) in front of the new Romero mural that a parish youth group painted on the side of the church.

We ran out of time for some of the planned activities, but everyone who came from all 12 villages of the parish got to enjoy tamales and coffee, which all the communities provided.

During the Mass, when Pope Francis named Romero among the new saints, we stood and applauded and, of course, people shot off lots of fireworks and rang the church bells!

A few months ago, after the date for the canonization had been announced, we were discussing how we would refer to the new saint—‘St. Óscar,’ ‘St. Romero,’ etc. A priest from a nearby parish, Father Luís Coto said, “He’ll always be ‘Monseñor’ to us,” indicating the respect and love the people have for him. As we were walking in the evening procession, I heard a child behind me read the message on one of the posters: “The voice of the voiceless.” Her father then explained to her, “In those days you couldn’t say anything against the government or speak up about the bad things happening. But Monseñor wasn’t afraid to denounce the evils and that’s why they killed him.”

During our celebration I asked Gerardo, now in his 80s, what Archbishop Romero meant to him; he said: the truth and the light. “There were two sides during that time, and you couldn’t believe either of them, but Monseñor Romero spoke the truth. He was the voice and the light to follow.”

While there are countless Romero followers especially among the poor here, one of the great challenges today is convincing a still significant part of the Salvadoran population, including many within the church, of the truth about him. Assassinated while celebrating Mass by forces of the powerful ruling elite backed by the military of the 1970s and ’80s, Romero was appropriated by the left and his history was manipulated by both sides of the armed conflict that continued for the next 12 years.

Since his beatification in 2015, there has been a more concerted effort to spread the truth about his fidelity to the church, his compassionate and outspoken support for his people, particularly the poor, the vulnerable and the voiceless, his pleas for dialogue instead of violence, and his clamor for justice without siding with any political forces. Hopefully his recognition as El Salvador’s first saint will bring about a greater understanding of his life and virtues, and serve as an example of faithfulness for more of us to follow.

Peg Vámosy, from Sacred Heart Parish in Stamford, NY, has been a Maryknoll Lay Missioner for 10 years, serving in East Timor and Cambodia before El Salvador. She works in parish programs promoting sustainable agriculture and greater environmental awareness. Maryknoll Lay Missioners is a Catholic organization inspired by the mission of Jesus to live and work with poor communities in Africa, Asia and the Americas, responding to basic needs and helping to create a more just and compassionate world. To learn more or to support Peg’s work, go to: 


Medicine and Miracles

Dr. Susan Nagele shares stories from her years in Africa. (36 min)

Our Lady of the Rosary

Rosary at Convent of Our Lady of Panha

Rosary at Convent of Our Lady of Penha in Espírito Santo, Brazil

The October 7th Feast of Our Lady of the Rosary

by Marilyn Kott — Maryknoll Lay Missioner, Brazil

“Joyful…sorrowful…luminous…glorious…” These adjectives describe the titles of the mysteries of Christ that we consider when praying the traditional rosary. The Joyful Mysteries on Mondays and Saturdays, the Sorrowful Mysteries on Tuesdays and Fridays, the Glorious Mysteries on Wednesdays and Sundays. And the Luminous Mysteries, only one time each week, on Thursdays. Of course, there are many other themes and ways a person can pray the rosary or can consider Jesus’s life. With the rosary, this is usually done through the lens of His mother Mary’s experiences.

Men with rosaries in prison

With rosary in hand

The physical rosary is a much-recognized symbol of our Catholic faith. Fifty-four beads are connected in a circle by a medallion. From that medallion, a chain extends with five more beads and a crucifix. You will find rosaries – not only in the hands of a person praying it — but all around. Hanging from the rear-view mirror of a car, for example. In our world in São Paulo, we find them around the necks of incarcerated men and women, worn like necklaces.

That last image – rosaries worn as necklaces by the incarcerated – surprised us a little when we first started visiting prisoners here. And so did the popularity of the rosary. The number of times a prisoner asked us for a rosary or brought theirs over as an aid to prayer during our prison visits, wasn’t anything we had expected. We found that if we were able to give rosaries out when we visited, the recipient almost immediately placed it around their neck, and in future visits it would still be there — a symbol of their faith, and also a symbol that someone “outside” cared about them.

Collection of rosaries

Rosaries donated to Maryknoll Lay Missioners and used in prison ministry

We have also found that rosary guides are welcome, and so we’ve learned to bring them with us to the prisoners. Rosary guides include the most basic Christian and Catholic prayers – the Our Father, the Apostle’s Creed, the Hail Mary, and the Glory Be, along with Old and New Testament passages – and therefore provide a super-efficient, pocket-sized prayer reference for a person who is out of their normal element. This works for travelers like Jim and me, and for the incarcerated men and women we meet. Some of them have always been faithful worshippers, while others haven’t thought about God in a while. Either way, when they enter prison and are stripped of their belongings, Rosary guides give them one way to re-open the door to conversation with God.

Jim and I been able to find Rosary guides in languages that serve all of the foreigners we meet in the prisons – and so have delivered them in Portuguese, English, Spanish, French, Creole, Russian, Dutch, German, Hungarian, Tagalog, Sotho and Swahili. Being able to read something in a native tongue is a big comfort, we’ve learned, and much appreciated.

We figure we’ve given out around 700 rosaries since we began ministry in 2016. A group in Ohio fashioned and donated 537 of them to Maryknoll. Love across the continents, from people who didn’t know where they would go, but gave their time, talent and treasure anyway.

Speaking of that, where did the rosary come from? Hard to say for sure, but in this podcast ( ), the hosts of Catholic Stuff You Should Know describe an early version of the rosary as incorporated into the teaching habits of Saint Dominic. The 12th century saint often instructed Scripture in short segments, interspersing breaks during which everyone prayed the Hail Mary together.

About the author:  Marilyn Kott has been in São Paulo with MKLM, and her husband Jim, since January 2016. In São Paulo, she works with Pastoral Carcerária, the organization formed by the Brazilian Bishops to provide the presence of Christ and His Church in the world of the prisons. She and Jim also work with a neighborhood project, aiding people who are in the situation of homelessness.

Marilyn Kott

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