Marla Wokurka is on a mission for our Mother.
The idea is simple: Get more families to pray the Rosary together. It was put on her heart during prayer in early 2022.
“(I heard) Jesus saying to me: strong marriages, strong families, strong Church, strong school,” said Wokurka, a school parent and Catechesis of the Good Shepherd catechist at St. Simon the Apostle in south St. Louis County. “At the same time, I really was hearing the Blessed Mother saying: If you get people to say the Rosary, I can give you so many graces.”
The Rosary Project, a network of St. Simon School families who commit to praying one decade of the Rosary at home each night, was one of the fruits of that idea. The initiative encourages families to get to know the mysteries and prayers of the Rosary and set aside intentional family prayer time, Wokurka said.
Wokurka, who has four daughters ranging in age from 6 to 18, knew from experience that praying an entire Rosary as a family could be daunting.
“Having children in wide age ranges, it was really challenging, with toddlers who are squirmy and teenagers who have 100 things to do, and my husband’s work schedule. I felt like we were failing more than we were succeeding at just getting together to say a whole Rosary every night,” she said.
As she was praying, a thought came: If she could get 20 of her fellow school families to pray just one decade of the Rosary every night, that would be equivalent to the entire four sets of mysteries of the Rosary. “I just had this vision of all of us, the decades all going together to be the beads of a Rosary in the Blessed Mother’s hands. And I thought, OK, I could do that,” she said.
Wokurka put the initiative in the parish bulletin and the school newsletter, and “within the first week, I had 20 families easily,” she said. “And then, because the Blessed Mother is so good, I had 40 families, and then 60 families. We have 85 right now,” with hopes that more will join during the 2023-24 school year.
In the Wokurka household, the family’s Google calendar alert sounds at 8 p.m. each night to remind them to gather and pray their decade. Taking that intentional prayer time together has been impactful for her own family’s faith, she said. “It opens up discussions with my teenagers; sometimes it’s a time for them to ask questions. And the little ones learn all the prayers.”
“I just think it’s important for families to pray together and to see their mom and dad pray together and to know that it’s something important and we make time to do,” she continued.
Erica Niemira, third grade teacher at St. Simon and mother of three, was inspired by Wokurka’s simple invitation. “She basically said, open your hearts, and if this feels right, join us. And that’s what I did,” she said. “…It was nothing that was going to be overwhelming, nothing that was going to take our entire day or make us think, gosh, there’s just no way I can fit this into my schedule. She just gave us that little bit of prayer, and from there, it’s totally flourished.”
This year, Niemira started inviting her fellow teachers to pray the Rosary with her before school: just a standing invitation, no pressure involved.
“We’re not even a month into school, but I can see that the small, 15-minute time for the Rosary in the morning makes a difference in how people react to each other throughout the day,” she said.
St. Simon principal Karen Folk has been an enthusiastic supporter of the Rosary Project from the start, Folk said. The school community also gathers for a back-to-school Rosary and ice cream social to kick off the year in August and prays a “living Rosary” each October and May, where students form the “beads” of the rosary and lead the prayers in turn.
“Our faith at St. Simon is our number one,” Folk said. “Getting that connection with our Mother is so meaningful to us and our kids.”
Father David Hogan started as pastor at St. Simon on Aug. 1 and was happy to learn about the back-to-school Rosary tradition, he said.
“It’s always great to dedicate a new year to our Blessed Mother,” he said. “Praying the Rosary in a public manner is definitely going to be helpful for our school and for our parish, but most especially as we all try to grow in holiness and become the saints that God is calling us to be.”
The school also has monthly eucharistic adoration in the school’s chapel. Each class has scheduled time in front of the Blessed Sacrament where students can pray the Rosary, read from the Bible or other prayer books or simply enjoy quiet time with Jesus. The whole school gathers for Benediction at the end of the day; this year, they’re learning the Benediction prayers in Latin, Folk said.
“We’re really getting back to our roots, the nuts and bolts of our faith,” she said.
The school and parish work together with families to help faith flourish, Folk said, adding that parents are the first and main catechists of their children.
Praying together, regularly attending Mass and teaching their children the traditions of the faith are simple ways that parents fulfill that duty, Wokurka said.
“We must model for our children prayer, we must talk about Jesus in all that we do and share our own faith journey with them. The Rosary Project is a small step for families to take,” she said. “It is a beginning, but if we take that one step, Jesus will run to us and draw us closer. Then that strong faith will pour into our schools, which will pour back into our families. It is this mutual sharing that will build a strong Church.”
>> Learn how to pray the Rosary
For simple instructions and a guide to the mysteries of the Rosary, visit usccb.org/ how-to-pray-the-rosary.