With virtual rosary, Bishop Burns comes together in prayer with families
By Michael Gresham
The Texas Catholic
There is a certain power that comes from praying the rosary. A feeling that Marty Ortiz believes is amplified when the rosary is prayed together as a family.
“There is something powerful about getting together as a family to pray,” said Mary, a parishioner at St. Michael the Archangel Catholic Church in Grand Prairie. “It’s a way to tell each other that we hear each other’s needs, know each other’s hearts and that we support each other to continue to grow in the faith.”
Mary, her husband Felipe and their two daughters, Natalie and Catalina, were one of six families who were invited in October to virtually pray the rosary with Bishop Edward J. Burns in celebration of the Month of the Holy Rosary.
“After praying the rosary with the bishop, we experienced so much joy and peace in our hearts, and we realized we need more family prayer time,” Mary said.
The other families that prayed the rosary with Bishop Burns included Adrian and Georgina Salinas and their three daughters, Alyssa, Clarissa and Marissa, of St. Michael the Archangel in Garland; Raul and Nohelia Aleman and their children, Mia, Sergio and Angelina, of Mary Immaculate in Farmers Branch; Robert and Jenni Carmichael and their children, MaryJo, Christopher, Jackson and LaylaBeth, of St. Mary in Sherman; Elsa and Reynaldo Estrellas and their children, Patrick and Rose, of Holy Spirit in Duncanville; and Alan and Joanne Herda and their son Luke of Holy Trinity in Dallas.
Bishop Burns prayed a different rosary for each family. All the rosaries were blessed by Pope Benedict XVI.
“I am touched by the sentiments of the family members who I prayed with. It was a joy and privilege for me to have these moments of being invited into their home virtually and praying the rosary with them,” said Bishop Burns, who mailed each rosary he prayed with a family to the families as a reminder of their time in prayer together. “In giving them the rosary, I also asked that they remember me in their prayers.”
Joanne Herda called the opportunity to pray the rosary not only as a family but also with the bishop a “moving experience.”
“Not only did it draw our family closer together in prayer for a moment on a busy day, but we were also able to set time aside to contemplate and discuss the experience we had shared,” she explained.
Her husband agreed.
“It was exactly the ‘Holy Spirit’ shot in the arm that our family needed, and we didn’t even know we needed it,” Alan said.
The Herda family has been attending Holy Trinity Catholic Church since 2011 and Luke attended the parish school from fifth through eighth grade. He also served as an altar server, performed in the Holy Trinity Catholic School choir, and volunteered at numerous parish school events. Now a junior at Cistercian Preparatory School, Luke has embraced his Catholic education and called the opportunity to pray the rosary as a family and with the bishop a “one-of-a-kind” experience.
“Our family was joined with the shepherd of our diocese in prayer, which helped connect us even more to the wonderful Catholic community in Dallas,” he said, adding that through praying the rosary, the faithful “open our individual hearts up for God to receive us in communion with one another.”
Joanne and Alan also are quite active in their parish with Joanne serving on the Holy Trinity parish council and having served as the Holy Trinity Catholic School Home and School Organization president for two years and volunteering with the HTCS Gala Board for four years. Alan was called to be a Catholic, completing the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults in 2012 and has since been a volunteer for the parish RCIA program. The couple recently completed FOCCUS/Faithful in Love/REFOCCUS training and said they are looking forward to serving in the Sponsor Couple Ministry.
Adrian and Georgina Salinas have been active parishioners at St. Michael the Archangel in Garland for more than 20 years. Adrian’s involvement has included being an extraordinary minister, faith formation teacher, FOCCUS sponsor for marriage prep, ACTS Core Team member, and an active member of the Knights of Columbus Council 11862. Georgina likewise serves as an extraordinary minister, a Parish Catechetical Leader assistant, and a FOCCUS Sponsor for marriage prep. Alyssa, 20, has been a lector, extraordinary minister, faith formation teacher, and a Cornerstone Young Adult Ministry core team leader. Clarissa, 18, is a former altar server, usher, John 15 Team Leader for Confirmation preparation, and a faith formation assistant. Marissa, 16, is an altar server, a John 15 Team Leader for Confirmation preparation, and a faith formation assistant.
A native of Peru, Raul Aleman met his wife Nohelia in Virginia, where their two older children were born before the family relocated to Dallas in 2011. The family first attended St. Rita Catholic Church, where the couple went through RCIA.
“We fell in love with Jesus and His Church,” Nohelia Aleman said. “We love serving together as a family.”
In the summer of 2020, the family began attending Mary Immaculate in Farmers Branch, where the Alemans became quite active.
“Right now, we serve as the altar servers’ coordinators, we volunteer with the youth group and we give pre-Baptismal classes in Spanish on Tuesdays,” Nohelia said.
The Carmichaels are new parishioners to St. Mary in Sherman, having relocated to the area in December 2020. Prior to that, Robert taught math and computer science for Richardson schools for 12 years before leaving to become a part of the Technology Education and Literacy in Schools program, which helps high schools build sustainable computer science programs. Jenni worked in high school ministry with St. Jude in Allen before transitioning to become a stay-at-home mother. A 2002 graduate of Ursuline Academy, Jenni’s family has deep ties to the Catholic Church in Dallas. Her maternal grandparents were among the founding members of St. Mark the Evangelist in Plano, where she attended school as a child. At St. Mary, the couple teaches faith formation classes where their older three children attend.
Originally from the Philippines, the Estrellas came to the United States in 2000.
“Ever since our family home was consecrated in 2006, we have prayed the rosary every evening as a family,” said Elsa, adding that in 2011, she and her husband became involved with Rosary for America.
The family suffered a tragedy earlier this year as their son Kevin, a front-line worker as a lab technician, died from COVID-19 in January. The Estrellas remain devoted to their faith and active at Holy Spirit in Duncanville.
“My husband and I are very involved in the parish as Eucharistic ministers,” Elsa said. “My husband is also in the Knights of Columbus. I cantor at Mass and am in the Legion of Mary.”
In addition to being a parishioner at St. Michael in Grand Prairie, Mary Ortiz serves as its communications director, working hand-in-hand with the parish community, families and ministry leaders. She and her husband live in Red Oak and their daughters attend St. Joseph Catholic School in nearby Waxahachie where Mary serves on the advisory council and as a room mother. At the school, Natalie is preparing for her first Holy Communion and sings in the school choir and at Thursday Masses. Meanwhile, Catalina is learning about the saints and “working hard” on learning her prayers. Mary said both daughters were excited to get to school and tell their friends about their “super cool” prayer time with Bishop Burns.
“Having this opportunity to build a one-on-one relationship with our bishop and to pray the rosary with him as a family was such a special opportunity for us,” she said.
While she admitted to initially being nervous about praying the rosary with Bishop Burns, Joanne Herda agreed it was a special moment, adding that once they began reciting the rosary, she was grateful for the faith-filled opportunity.
“When it comes to prayer, all worldly things get stripped away and it is the heart and the intentions of that prayer time that matters,” she said.