Anecita Alvizo had been praying for guidance when she picked up her mail.
She caught sight of a picture of Our Lady of Fatima holding a rosary.
“Amen!” Mrs. Alvizo declared out loud. “You want us to pray the Rosary daily, using social media so anyone in the entire world can join us in prayers.”
So began a new tradition among a group of Filipino Americans and their friends, neighbors and fellow parishioners in central Missouri and beyond.
The COVID-19 pandemic had curtailed this May’s elaborate annual Filipino celebration of the Blessed Mother.
The steadfast piety and flower-fueled pageantry of the month-long Flores de Mayo and Santacruzan celebrations are staples of growing up in the Philippines.
The temperate climate of that preeminently Catholic island country in southeast Asia yields baskets of springtime blossoms to present to the Blessed Mother in song-filled daily processions throughout the month.
The last nine days encapsulate a Novena of the Holy Cross. The final day’s communal festivities include Mass, a public procession and a feast. Young put on their finest and children wear angel costumes.
Most Gracious Advocate
The Missouri Chapter of the National Federations of Filipino American Associations has been organizing annual Santacruzan festivities in the heart of the state for over a decade.
Celebrations have taken place in Boonville, Laurie and Jefferson City.
Since that could not happen this year, Mrs. Alvizo, a member of Ss. Peter & Paul Parish in Boonville, shared her moment of inspiration with fellow parishioners and members of the Filipino American community.
Accordingly, each evening throughout May, a different family set up a camera at home and livestreamed the praying of the Rosary over Facebook.
“People signed up to do it right away,” said Mrs. Alvizo. “It was a bit of a struggle for some folks who had never worked with a livestream, so we helped each other.”
She occasionally went to someone’s house to help set up the equipment.
The camera stayed focused on the elaborately decorated prayer corner in each host family’s home while two or more people antiphonally led the prayers assigned to each bead, each decade, each mystery.
“Most Filipinos have an altar in their home,” Mrs. Alvizo noted. “It’s a quiet place for our crucifix and holy pictures. It’s where we go to pray.”
Father William Peckman, pastor of Ss. Peter & Paul Parish and of St. Joseph Parish in Fayette, encouraged everyone to set up a prayer corner in their home.
“Part of the excitement for the families that signed up to lead the Rosary was decorating their altar,” said Mrs. Alvizo.
The group decided to have the last livestreamed Rosary of May at the National Shrine of Mary, Mother of the Church, in Laurie.
About 20 people attended in person, with the rest taking part at home.
“We felt blessed to have a way to celebrate Our Lady despite the pandemic,” Mrs. Alvizo stated.
Inspired by this confidence
On the heels of the springtime success, Mrs. Alvizo wondered if anyone would be interested in leading a livestreamed Rosary from home in October, the Month of the Rosary.
All 31 days were booked up within a week.
“So we’re pretty much doing what we did all through May,” she said.
The prayer leader opens by welcoming everyone and announcing the pope’s and bishop’s prayer intentions, along with any special prayer requests.
Then, the prayer leaders announce each Joyful, Sorrowful, Glorious or Luminous Mystery of the Rosary and leads the requisite “Our Fathers,” “Hail Marys,” “Glory Be’s” and Fatima prayers.
They also pray the Consecration to the Holy Family, Pope Francis’s Entrustment Prayer, and the prayer to St. Michael the Archangel.
The other participants follow along from home.
“It involves a commitment and personal witness,” said Mrs. Alvizo. “Each family that leads the Rosary makes a point of being prepared. And by sharing with their friends on Facebook, they’re showing how much their faith really means to them.”
People have told her that the livestreamed Rosaries are creating new excitement while helping people feel more connected.
Many have said they want to continue the tradition next May and October, after the pandemic hopefully subsides.
“COVID has not been a good thing, but there are good things happening because of it,” said Mrs. Alvizo.
“A lot of people are praying who might not have done so in the past,” she stated. “The more we pray and use things like social media to share God’s consolation with people who are lost or discouraged, the more they may be drawn back to Him.
“They will hopefully be influenced by what wonderful things people are doing to make their faith stronger and stronger every day,” she said.
Now and forever
Mrs. Alvizo, who grew up praying the Rosary each evening with her family, believes it’s time well spent.
She hopes all of this will help people see the value of making time for prayer, especially as families, and not just during challenging times.
“Regardless of how busy we are, we need to pray and thank God for the blessings we have received and continue spending time with Jesus and our Blessed Mother,” she said.