COLUMBIA — “It is no wonder we choose May, the month of new life, as the month to honor Mary who brought the Life of the World to us,” said Msgr. Leigh Lehocky at St. Peter School’s multicultural Marian event May 1.
The pastor of St. Peter Church was part of a celebration that included traditional Marian hymns, a consecration to the Blessed Mother, a procession with flowers, crowning and recitation of the rosary in 11 different languages representing the diverse student body at the school.
Madeline McMillion began with the sign of the cross in Lesotho, an African dialect, and the students said the Hail Mary prayer in alternating French and Spanish, the two required foreign languages taught at St. Peter School.
For a long time the school has devoted a month in the year to pray the rosary every Friday morning, and last year Regina Spell, a second-grade teacher, presented the idea of incorporating French and Spanish into the May program.
The idea continued to evolve as principal Madeline McMillion invited all the different ethnic groups to participate. She also wanted the parents to be a part of the process so families led the prayers together in their particular language.
The gathering has now become an annual event, and more languages seem to be added each year. In addition to English, Lesotho, Spanish and French, the languages represented this year were Vietnamese, Italian, Arabic, German, Polish, Gaelic, and American Sign Language.
“In our catechesis we teach about the universality of the Church. The multicultural rosary takes that teaching a step further. It shows that Catholic means universal because the children can see that the rosary is prayed all over the world in many different languages,” said McMillion.
Patti Reuber, who teaches sixth grade, took this opportunity to teach her children to learn the Glory Be in Arabic and the Our Father in sign language. Rita El-Khabbaz’s mom taught the prayer in Arabic to Reuber who then taught her class.
“I enjoyed the chance to teach my girls these prayers because we do not speak Arabic at home, and I am thankful to Mrs. Reuber for teaching it to the entire class,” said Marie El-Khabbaz.
USC professor Christopher Toumey, Ph.D., was joined by his daughter Vivien to pray the Our Father in Gaelic, a language Toumey had studied.
“It was a wonderful honor to be a part of this event and to revisit the Gaelic language and to put it in prayer,” said Toumey who is of Irish descent.
He shared the humorous statement of his daughter after hearing the Gaelic prayer for the first time.
“She said, ‘That doesn’t sound like anything. People were going to think you are making it up,'” he recalled.
Amanda Summey led the Hail Mary prayer in Spanish for the Fourth Mystery and enjoyed the experience.
“It was scary, but it was great to be able to pray to God in another language,” said Summey.
Selected by their peers, six-graders Addy Steigerwalt and Sim Harmon had the honor of crowning the statue of Mary, a sign of love and respect for the Mother of God. The six-grade class voted for Steigerwalt and Harmon because they felt these two students most exemplified what it means to be Catholic.
In his final remarks, Mgsr. Lehocky challenged everyone to bring Jesus to the world.
“See in Mary what God wants to do for each of us,” he said. “He sent us his Spirit so we can bring Jesus to others in a new way. We follow her example.”