WEST HARTFORD – A grassroots movement that began just four years ago at a local parish is now enriching the lives of children throughout the world. The Children’s Rosary prayer group that began at St. Thomas the Apostle Church has spread beyond Connecticut to 11 countries on five continents.
Blythe Kaufman, who launched the movement four years ago, describes it as a lay effort to establish rosary prayer groups for children. The groups are composed of and led by children. Most youngsters who participate are between the ages of 4 and 14.
“Children are so beautifully open to prayer and while many receive formal catechesis, [which] includes instruction on how to pray, few have a place where they can come together with other children to pray on a regular basis,” said Dr. Kaufman, a mother of three and an associate professor at the University of Connecticut, School of Dental Medicine.
Similar to adult prayer groups, the Children’s Rosary supports the prayer lives of children and promotes their spiritual growth. Most groups meet weekly or monthly, although some recently established in Asia meet every day. A new group in Punjab, Pakistan, meets twice daily during school vacations.
The movement has spread widely since it quietly began, when a small group of children came together to pray for their parish at the request of their pastor. As the children kneeled before the statue of Our Lady and recited the rosary together, few could have imagined that the scene would be repeated countless times by nearly 100 groups across the globe.
The number of children who met to pray at the West Hartford church continued to grow. Eighteen months later, a second Children’s Rosary group was established on San Juan Island in Washington. Locally, groups started forming as word spread from person to person. Others were created by people who were inspired by their experience visiting a Children’s Rosary gathering.
Currently in Connecticut there are 20 Children’s Rosary groups. Across the United States there are an additional 57 groups in 23 different states.
New groups in other parts of the United States often form when families who are familiar with the Children’s Rosary relocate to other parts of the country.
The largest Children’s Rosary group was formed in Nigeria when a Dominican sister, who lives in Missouri, traveled to her West African home country. Children from St. Thomas the Apostle Church provided her with a large box of rosaries, Children’s Rosary books and some CD’s.
“A month later we heard that a new Children’s Rosary group had formed in southeastern Nigeria, with 500 children, as a result of her trip and the materials we sent,” said Dr. Kaufman.
Because of its size, the group, based at St. Anthony Parish in Ogbodu Aba, Enugu State Nigeria, has eight group leaders and meets as eight separate units in nearby localities.
“On special occasions all eight Children’s Rosary groups meet together at St. Anthony Church,” she said.
“Many new groups are in the process of forming throughout Asia,” said Dr. Kaufman.
A woman from Florida who learned about the Children’s Rosary wanted to introduce it to children in Asia. She traveled for six weeks visiting China, South Korea and Singapore. She also traveled throughout the Philippines where a Children’s Rosary group was created during May in Tacloban City, on the island of Leyte, Philippines.
According to Dr. Kaufman, many of the 65 children who are part of that new group were survivors of typhoon Haiyan, known in the Philippines as typhoon Yolanda, one of the strongest cyclones ever recorded, which largely destroyed Tacloban City in 2013.
“It is amazing the impact that can be made both here in the Archdiocese of Hartford and in the most distant places,” said Dr. Kaufman.
As the number of groups has increased, resources that support the movement have also expanded. A website and blog that Dr. Kaufman created to share photos and inspiration for the original West Hartford group now provides instructions for creating a Children’s Rosary group and, among other things, lists all known groups throughout the world.
A booklet, Children’s Rosary, A Prayer Group Movement for Children, written by Dr. Kaufman with a preface by Archbishop Emeritus Henry Mansell, explains how to start a group and includes the prayers of the rosary. The 32-page booklet is available in Braille, English, French and Spanish. Editions will soon be available in Dutch, Polish, Portuguese, and Vietnamese languages. Last year, two CD’s featuring children’s voices praying the rosary against a backdrop of instrumental music were released.
EWTN premiered a series of monthly Children’s Rosary videos on July 6 in the United States and Canada. It was expected to continue at least through October.
The rosary groups proliferate as children, parents and parishes continue to embrace the movement.
“Children are the heart of the family and families are the center of the parish,” said Dr. Kaufman. “When there is support and growth of prayer with our children, this provides a seed for a rebirth of prayer in the family. When our families are strong, then our parishes will be strong.”