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Public Rosary in San Francisco to draw thousands
Father Patrick Peyton addresses the San Francisco Family Rosary Rally, October 7, 1961
Father Patrick Peyton addresses the San Francisco Family Rosary Rally, October 7, 1961

.- Fifty years after a 1961 public Rosary gathered over half a million people in San Francisco, a Catholic lay group is organizing the same event for October of 2011.

Rally organizers told CNA on June 1 that "thousands" of Catholic faithful are expected.

On October 15, the Bay Area chapter of the Legion of Mary – an international community of lay Catholics – will host their Family Rosary Crusade. The event will be held in San Francisco’s Civic Center Plaza, starting at noon.

The keynote address will be delivered by Father Andrew Apostoli, C.F.R., a co-founder of the Franciscan Friars of the Renewal, and a well-known television presenter and author.

David Marten, head of the Legion’s board for the Archdiocese of San Francisco, said that every year “the Legion of Mary tries to contribute one significant event to the archdiocese.”

“This year, our object is to foster devotion to the Blessed Mother and to Jesus Christ,” Marten said. “We hope we can accomplish this by witnessing in a very public place.”

In the 1950s and 60s, Holy Cross priest Father Patrick Peyton led Rosary events in countries across the globe. This year marks the 50th anniversary of the record-breaking 1961 Rosary Rally at the Polo Fields in San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park.

That event drew 550,000 people, making it one of the largest gatherings in the history of San Francisco.

Fr. Lawrence Goode, the Legion of Mary’s spiritual director, recalled Fr. Peyton's charisma and personal character when he participated in the 1961 event.

“In those days, we went door-to-door inviting people to attend the rally,” Fr. Goode remembered. “Fr. Peyton was an amazing priest, a friend of movie stars and celebrities, yet he always remained very simple.”

Fr. Goode said that although the 2011 Rosary Crusade honors the work of Fr. Peyton several decades ago, this year's event seeks to emphasize the importance of prayer in today's world.

“You know, it was Fr. Peyton who popularized the phrase ‘the family that prays together stays together.’  His idea is even more relevant today than it was then.”

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