LINCOLN, Nebraska, May 7, 2018 (LifeSiteNews) – The University of Nebraska-Lincoln has long been uniting Nebraskans over the common cause of college football. On April 29, thousands of Nebraskans came to campus not to cheer on the Huskers, but to pray to the Blessed Virgin Mary together.
Catholics from all parishes in the Lincoln Diocese and those within a 60-mile radius of Lincoln surrounded the university campus with the HuskerCatholic Candle-lit Rosary Crusade. Bishop James D. Conley also participated.
At World Youth Day in 1993, Pope Saint John Paul II said, “Do not be afraid to go out on the streets and into public places like the first apostles who preached Christ and the Good News of salvation in the squares of cities, towns, and villages. This is no time to be ashamed of the Gospel. It is time to preach it from the rooftops. Do not be afraid to break out of the comfortable and routine modes of living in order to take up the challenge of making Christ known in the modern metropolis.”
The approximately 4,000 people who participated in the Rosary Crusade certainly did make Christ known in Lincoln.
The man behind the mission is Father James Kelleher S.O.L.T., the founder and director of the Eucharistic Family Rosary Crusade. Bishop Conley invited “the rosary priest” to bring his work to Nebraska, and leading up to the event, Fr. Kelleher gave talks about the rosary to Catholic schools throughout the diocese.
He focused on responding to the call of Our Lady of Fatima to pray the rosary.
“These three little kids faithfully praying the rosary every day helped bring World War I to an end,” Father Kelleher told Nebraskans.
Mary told the children – two of whom are now canonized – to pray for peace in 1917. The same intention remained true for the Rosary Crusade, because the world today is just as desperate for peace.
The image of the rosary as a spiritual weapon is why the event was called a crusade.
“Our Lady exhorted the children and us that to fight Satan we need weapons, and the rosary is one of our most powerful weapons to restore God to the family and to our society,” said Bishop Conley.
Rosary Crusade Committee Vice President Wayne Ringer said Catholics joined Mary’s army against evil with their public prayers.
He also said it was significant that Catholics prayed the rosary around campus, where the “next generation of leaders” is being formed.
While kneeling at an altar behind St. Thomas Aquinas Church, Bishop Conley led the prayers. His voice rang out through portable radios all over downtown Lincoln.
Priests and FOCUS Missionaries from the Newman Center encouraged college students to make a public witness to their faith.
Father Steven Mills, assistant priest at St. Thomas Aquinas Church, said, “This gave students the opportunity to live out their faith and draw beyond just something they do at home or in private. They were able to say, ‘This is me. This is who I am.’”
The rosary raised the curiosity of non-Catholic college students. Fr. Mills recalled watching a young man walk out of his fraternity house to ask the participants about their purpose in praying.
FOCUS Missionary Mary Forbes said that these questions are very important for evangelization.
She explained, “The students can start a really cool conversation. Their friends will ask, ‘Why did you do that? Why did you take time out of your finals week to stand outside and recite words?’ And the students can tell them, ‘Actually, there is a reason for this – there is a God and He yearns for you just to turn to Him.’”
Young students made up a large portion of the crowd.
“We are strong enough to take this on because of our awesome priests and religious sisters who provide such a great example for us. They really inspire us young people to pray and receive the sacraments and to just really be present in our faith and that it’s not just something for when you get older,” said University of Nebraska sophomore Elizabeth Foley.
Pius X High School senior Joe Pynes was inspired to attend the Rosary Crusade because he hopes to see an end to the violence in the world today.
“I think it sends a powerful message of unity without anger,” he explained. “There’s a lot of anger going around and when we gather to pray, it shows peace in a stronger way than anything else.”
“I first heard the call to the priesthood when I was a student at the University of Nebraska, so when I heard about this, my first instinct was to go,” said Father Patrick Behm of Fort Dodge, Iowa, who travelled three and a half hours to pray with the Nebraskans. “I think it’s a great witness to evangelize not only the students here but the larger culture and the entire city really.”
The prayer event “was a beautiful expression of faith,” said Bishop Conley. “I wish I could’ve been 200 feet in the air and seen it from above, but I’m sure it was a beautiful sight from heaven and God and Our Lady smiled.”