GARDEN CITY — Many Catholics say at least one Hail Mary a day as part of their regular prayers, but how many have the dedication to say 2,000?
Thirty people took on the challenge at the 2,000 Hail Mary Prayer Vigil held Oct. 10 at St. Michael Church.
The vigil is held there in May and October of each year because those are the months dedicated to Mary, according to organizer Mita Olaso.
Olaso started participating in the vigil with other Filipino Catholics when she lived in New York. She helped organize the first one at St. Michael in October 2004 about three months after moving there.
The devotion started in Spain in 1933 and has become especially popular with many Filipino Catholics around the world.
Its history can be found on the Web site, www.2000hailmarys.org. At St. Michael, it attracts a diverse group of people, including members of other parishes.
Olaso said a couple from New Jersey drove to Garden City for the vigil just to bring an image of Our Lady of Manaoag, a vision of Mary honored with a shrine at Manaoag in the Philippines.
This year’s participants had breakfast together after the 8 a.m. Mass, then started praying promptly at 9 a.m. They took breaks for lunch and afternoon snacks, and paused to pray the Divine Mercy Chaplet around midday, Olaso said. The vigil ended around 6:30 p.m.
About 10 people stayed for the entire vigil, praying the equivalent of 50 rosaries, while others came and went during the day.
Father Raymond Carlo, pastor of St. Michael, gave the group permission to use the parish activity center. He attends each year and prays a rosary with the group.
“It’s wonderful to have this kind of event here, because prayer is great,” Father Carlo said. “We already have perpetual adoration at the church, and the more prayer in different forms, the better.
“As Catholics we have a special devotion to the Blessed Mother, so this is very special,” he said.
“When I do this vigil, I just feel invigorated, like I’m an energized battery,” Olaso said. “I explain to people that while we are praying the Hail Marys, it’s like 2,000 roses from Mary’s garden that we are giving to God through Jesus.”
Participants offered Hail Marys in 20 rounds, each focused on specific intentions, including an end to abortion, guidance and encouragement in reading daily Scriptures.
They also prayed for their own intentions and those of others, all written on pieces of paper and placed in a small basket.
Ellen DeKlava, a member of St. Michael, said she prayed for a brother suffering from brain cancer. She said the vigil appealed to her because it focused on intercessory prayer, and offered the chance to lift up personal concerns and prayer for the worldwide church.
“I just find such great peace while I’m praying the Hail Marys, and I know that whenever we ask God, he is going to give us a lot of wonderful answers,” DeKleva said. “God always heals either body, soul, mind or spirit, and there’s great fruit from the time we spend in prayer.”