St. Charles Borromeo achieves million-prayer goal for Pope Francis
The prayerful protection of the Blessed Mother has been showered upon Pope Francis 1 million times over, thanks to St. Charles Borromeo students and their friends.
On Holy Thursday afternoon, just before the start of St. Charles Borromeo School’s monthly rosary, religion teacher Lisa Benoit, accompanied by seven students bearing numbered placards, ascended the sanctuary steps to make a joyful announcement: the school’s 2014-15 goal of praying 1 million Hail Marys for the safety of Pope Francis had not only been met, but exceeded.
The count: an incredible 1,031,840 Hail Marys.
“I thought it was going to happen after the Easter break, but so many people have been helping and adding to our numbers,” said Mary Schmidt, school principal, as students cheered and clapped in their pews. “I’m thrilled!” Schmidt added. “What a wonderful send-off for Easter!”
Students step up
Students at the Destrehan elementary school launched the prayer effort last September in response to media reports that identified the Holy Father as a potential target of ISIS terrorists.
“We are always trying to impress upon the children how powerful prayer is,” Schmidt said. “We tell them all the time that the prayers of little children are especially powerful, because Jesus listens in a special way when they pray.”
During the first few months of school the prayers poured in, with St. Charles Borromeo’s 462 students praying five Hail Marys for the protection of Pope Francis during morning announcements – meaning that a minimum of 2,340 prayers were built into every school day.
The young prayer warriors also started leading Hail Marys at home with their families and reporting the count to Benoit, coordinator of the million-prayer campaign. Their march toward the seemingly elusive number was tracked on a graphic in a school hallway.
Calling all prayer warriors!
Still, as diligent as the students were, time was becoming a factor. At the mid-point of the school year the Hail Mary count was not yet at 500,000, prompting Schmidt to enlist the help of students at Brother Martin and St. Charles Catholic – high schools with faculty links to St. Charles Borromeo Parish.
Power of the press
An article on the school’s prayer effort, published in the March 7 issue of the Clarion Herald, widened the net even more. Total strangers began contacting the school to offer their prayer muscle to the campaign.
New prayer partners added to the count:
• A local businesswoman contacted Schmidt to say that instead of listening to “mindless radio chatter,” she would be saying 10 Hail Marys for Pope Francis on the way to work and another 10 on her drive home, using a finger rosary that belonged to her late sister. In response, St. Charles Borromeo students are praying for the deceased sister by name in their daily prayers.
• The St. Jude Society at St. Mary Magdalen Parish in Metairie devoted its nine-hour devotional to St. Charles Borromeo’s prayer campaign and personally delivered the results to Schmidt: a pile of index cards with numbers and signatures representing each member’s contribution, which totaled 9,430 Hail Marys.
• Sixth graders at St. Matthew the Apostle in River Ridge sent St. Charles Borromeo’s sixth graders a paper prayer chain listing their Hail Mary calculations, along with messages of support.
• In a move that took the school’s effort to a national audience, St. Mary's Messenger children’s magazine reprinted the Clarion Herald article on the papal Hail Mary drive in its spring issue.
Early Easter present
After the announcement and ensuing rosary, Schmidt's students settled down for one more prayer before their Easter break: a Passion Play presented by eighth graders. The class also re-enacted the Stations of the Cross on the river levee later that afternoon – with no particular audience – to telegraph to passersby that they are not shy about expressing their faith in public.
“I don’t think it’s coincidental that we made our 1 million goal on Holy Thursday,” Schmidt told her students. “Jesus and our Blessed Mother were with us the whole time we were trying to reach our goal, and the fact that we did it on Holy Thursday just lets us know he wanted us to be successful," she said.
"(Christ) loves us so much we can’t even understand it here on earth," the principal added. "That’s what Easter is about.”
The latest photos related to this story will be published in the April 11 issue of the Clarion Herald. St. Charles Borromeo School Principal Mary Schmidt said her school is looking at ways to communicate the success of its prayer effort to Pope Francis. Also, despite having reached their prayer goal, students will continue to dedicate Hail Marys to the pope, Schmidt said.