SYDNEY (ChurchMilitant.com) - Catholics in Australia are planning a nationwide Rosary on May 13.
Sunday, May 13 will be the 101st anniversary of Our Lady's first apparition at Fatima. Some Australian Catholics plan to pray the Rosary for their country on that day.
The initiative is known as Oz Rosary — "Oz" being slang for "Australian." It is also called Oz Rosary #53, with "53" signifying the number of times the Hail Mary is said during the Rosary. Organizers' goal is to get at least 53 prayer locales scattered throughout Australia — thus, symbolically surrounding the country with the Most Holy Rosary.
On Thursday, Church Militant reached out to one of the organizers of Oz Rosary. We asked her what the organizing process has been like so far. She wrote back, "We have only just started this in earnest in the last week or two, and [it's] still in the beginning stages."
She elaborated, "At this stage, there are a number of laity including myself who are organizing the event, from both Sydney and Canberra and some other regional areas."
Numerous schools and parishes have already signed up for May 13's Oz Rosary. Most of them are in or near Sydney or Canberra, she told us.
The "About" section of Oz Rosary's Facebook page states, "In an effort to pray for our country we are asking parishes, Rosary groups, prayer groups and youth groups to join in across Australia on Sunday, May 13, 2018."
It also explains, "We are praying for the future of our country and committing our nation to God and to the Immaculate Heart of Mary."
The organizer who contacted us affirmed, "It is a great opportunity to pray and consecrate our nation to Mary."
She cited Australia's Christian roots in the email, telling us, "In Australia, our history is that we're known as the 'Great Southland of the Holy Spirit' and were consecrated as such by the Portuguese explorer de Queirós before the nation had been fully discovered."
Indeed, Portuguese navigator Pedro Fernandes de Queirós (Spanish: Pedro Fernández de Quirós) discovered Australia in 1606. Working for Spain's King Phillip III and shaped by the fervor of the Catholic Counter-Reformation, de Queirós declared the land we know as Australia "the Southern Land of the Holy Spirit."
In fact, the name Australia is basically a Latin word meaning "the nation in the south" or simply "the southern land."
One historical manuscript from the voyage that discovered Australia features de Queirós proclaiming:
In the name of the Most Holy Trinity, the Catholic Church, the Order of St. Francis and the Order of Bl. John of God and of the Holy Spirit and of His Majesty ... I take possession of these lands and all the parts thereof, in the name of John of God and all the professed brothers of his Order.
National Rosary rallies like Oz Rosary are a growing trend in countries around the world. It all started with Poland's million-strong Rosary to the Borders on October 7, 2017. One of the most Catholic countries in Europe, Poland has hosted two of the largest Catholic prayer gatherings in Europe this decade: 2017's Rosary to the Borders and the 2016 World Youth Day in Kraków.
A smaller initiative was launched by Catholics in Italy on October 13, less than a week later. They were inspired by Poland's Rosary and asked participants to spend the day fasting on bread and water until they prayed the Rosary. Referring to the Italian peninsula's common nickname, "the boot," one Polish headline joked that Italian faithful had "tied 'the boot' with the Rosary."
Ireland, too, had a national Rosary in November last year. Called "Rosary on the Coast for Life and Faith," it drew over 30,000 participants.
The United States had a nationwide Rosary in December, with at least one person or group in each of the 50 states, as well as participants in several U.S. territories.
Oz Rosary is inspired by all these prayer events in other countries. Australian organizers wrote on Facebook on January 11:
In recent months, countries including Poland and Ireland have held nationwide Rosaries across their countries for faith and protection of their nation, consecrating their nations to Mary.
Australia is the great Southland of the Holy Spirit, and on Sunday the 13th of May, 2018, we hope to do the same.
The Facebook post went on to state, "Being a Sunday, churches are already filled, and a Rosary could be said before or after Mass. But streets, parks, beaches and stadiums are just as good!"
The organizer we contacted hopes the Oz Rosary #53 will spread from the big cities to the rural parishes in the Outback. She wrote, "We have a lot of country Outback areas in Australia, and our aim to get those remoter groups involved who are in the Outback as well."
The Australian Rosary has the support of the bishop emeritus, David Cremin, the Irish-born retired bishop of Sydney.