Allison Gingras shares how her World Youth Day pilgrimage was blessed by divine Providence from beginning to end.
My Rosary story includes powerful intercessory assistance from the Rosary Priest himself, Venerable Patrick Peyton. In 2013, my oldest son and I traveled with the Deaf Apostolate of Boston to Rio de Janeiro for World Youth Day. Just four years earlier, our family had adopted a sweet little girl from China, who is Deaf. This trip offered an opportunity to not only become more acquainted with the Catholic Deaf community but also allowed further instruction in interpreting the Mass into ASL. The most remarkable blessing came from learning the ASL for the liturgy from Fr. Shawn Carey, himself Deaf. This alone already brimmed with God's Divine Providence; little did I know, God was only warming up!
The trip began long before I stepped on an airplane, with me sitting at Fr. Peyton's grave praying the Rosary. I am fortunate to live close to Holy Cross Family Ministries Headquarters and the cemetery where Fr. Peyton interred, which offers the blessings of frequent pilgrimages to pray there. A woman with acute anxiety, I knew I needed divine assistance to help me overcome my fear, and accept this incredible, once in a lifetime gift from God.
My prayer was simple: Fr. Peyton, please come with me on this trip. I even slipped a little pebble I found near his headstone into my pocket. In case you are wondering, I do end up confessing my thievery later in this story.
Fr. Peyton did not take long to show his kind assistance once in Rio. First came the miraculous respite from returning to Copacabana beach after a harrowing WYD opening night. My ardent prayers to not return for the next night's festivities were answered when the emcee announced that the venue for English-speaking pilgrims would be live-streaming the evening’s events! I know Fr. Peyton had come to my assistance when the emcee added this special opportunity was being made possible by the generosity of Holy Cross Family Ministries!
However, it did not take long for my anxiety to ramp into high gear. Although safe that night, what about the rest of the trip? Should I stay behind when my group returned to the beach the following night? The thought of being back where we were nearly trampled trying to exit the beach overwhelmed my sensibilities. I clutched my Rosary and begged for heaven's help.
As I sat lost in my thoughts, I heard the word "rock" come from the large screen projecting the Stations of the Cross at the WYD main venue. It jarred me out from my dark thoughts. I added the rock in my pocket from Fr. Peyton's grave to the hand nervously fingering my Rosary beads. The Spirit nudged me to stop worrying, trust in Him, and while I was at it, go find a priest for confession.
Just as I entered the Confession area, they announced the line was closed. Confident the Holy Spirt truly moved me to receive the Sacrament of Reconciliation; the closure stirred my anxiety. At that moment, I needed to be back in my seat and nearly toppled a priest over in my haste. A kind voice excused himself as if the near-collision were his fault. Gathering my senses, I realized my poor victim was none other than the then-president of Family Rosary, Fr. John Phalen, C.S.C. What? There were thousands of people in this building, yet here I was, standing facing one of the men continuing Fr. Peyton's amazing work. Out of my mouth, blurted, "will you hear my confession!" Of course, he agreed ... yet again, God had even more up His sleeve.
After my confession, I shared with Fr. Phalen my fears about returning to the WYD festivities. My concerns were not just for me but also for my group, which included deaf and hard of hearing pilgrims facing challenges, not only navigating the dark beach but, more importantly, maintaining sign language communication. Fr. Phalen lit up as he conveyed his discovery just that morning of a section reserved for pilgrims needing special assistance. He quickly connected us to someone who could assure our group had appropriate, safe, accessible seating for the remainder of the WYD festivities. He even forgave my rock pilfering, amused because of the Rosary's early history connection to rocks. We both felt, without a doubt, that Fr. Peyton had indeed taken me up on my plea to come along to Rio!
Look for a new Rosary Story each day throughout October, and use the hashtag #myrosarystory to share yours on social media!
Copyright 2020 Allison Gingras
Images (top to bottom): copyright 2019 Holy Cross Family Ministries, all rights reserved; Wikimedia Commons, CC BY SA 3.0
About the Author
Allison Gingras works for Family Rosary, Catholic Mom and the Diocese of Fall River as a social media and digital specialist. She is the author of Encountering Signs of Faith (Fall 2022, Ave Maria Press). Allison developed the Stay Connected Journals for Catholic Women series including her volumes—The Gift of Invitation and Seeking Peace (OSV). Podcast host of A Seeking Heart with Allison Gingras and a co-host of Catholic Momcast.