McHenry Catholics Host Annual Prayer Breakfast
By Pat Szpekowski, Observer Correspondent
October 16, 2017

CRYSTAL LAKE—The power of Mary’s intercession and motherly love was a focus for those who gathered for the seventh annual McHenry County Catholic Prayer Breakfast on the feast day of Our Lady of the Rosary, Oct. 7.

The morning began with Mass at this year’s host parish SS. Peter and Paul Parish in Cary. Celebrants were  guest speaker, Father Francis “Rocky” Hoffman; Father Carl Beekman, pastor of
SS. Peter and Paul; Father Brian Grady, pastor of St. Elizabeth Ann Seton, Crystal Lake;  and Father John McNamara, parochial vicar, St. Bridget, Loves Park.

In his homily, Father Hoffman, popularly known as Father Rocky, acknowledged the importance of devotion to Our Lady and her power of unifying Christians and Catholic countries throughout history.

He urged everyone to discover the power of the rosary.

“Many people avoid praying the rosary because they feel it is too routine or they can’t do it well,” he said. “Don’t worry about how you are saying the rosary, just do it, and God will bless you.”

Following Mass, more than 350 people from the McHenry Deanery and beyond gathered for breakfast at the Holiday Inn in Crystal Lake.

Father Hoffman, executive director of Relevant Radio, and Dan Cheely, the host of the “Dan Cheely Show” heard weekends on Relevant Radio, were keynote speakers at the brunch.

Speakers talk of Mary, the Saints

A litigator and church historian, speaker Cheely is the director of evangelization at the Church of St. Mary in Lake Forest in the Chicago Archdiocese.

“This is a magnificent event,” he said. “I am so pumped up I’ll be just about flying home. What a great day to be here honoring Our Lady of Victory.”

Cheely wove stories of Our Lady of Fatima, the children who saw her, and the miracle of the sun on Oct. 13, 1917 when the extreme anti-Catholics came to disavow the Marian appearances. Instead, they came away startled at the spectacle they witnessed.

“As the sun plummeted and quickly changed,” he added, “ the children saw Jesus, Mary and Joseph blessing the people.”

With the upcoming 100th anniversary, Cheely asked, “What does Our Lady of Fatima mean to us? That God is with us and we must respond by loving Him back. Mary appeared to these three poor children in a war torn world and told them man must stop offending God.”

In his address “Great Stories about Great Saints,” Father “Rocky,” an Opus Dei priest, explained a saint is “one who imitates Christ.”

He spoke about St. Josemaria Escriva of Spain, founder of Opus Dei; St. Andre Bessette of the Holy Cross at the Oratory of St. Joseph in Montreal; St. Damien of Molokai; and St. Teresa of Calcutta.

Above all, he urged “devotion to Mary and to look out for our Mother.”

St. Teresa of Calcutta had a profound influence on him after he read her book, “Mother Teresa: In My Own Words.”

“Mother Teresa writes that she was urgently in need of $85,000 for a building but had no money. She promised Mary 85,000 Memorare’s. She and her sisters prayed incessantly and later, a check arrived for $85,000,” he said.

“Wow, can you imagine 85,000 Memorares? That would take me 10 a day for 20 years. But Mother Teresa had faith.”

The power of that true story resonated. He has promoted the devotion of the Memorare and other novenas throughout his ministries when funding was needed to build and grow schools and now to sustain Relevant Radio.

The thread of miracles through prayer to Mary are everywhere, he said.

“I’m sure many of you here have your own story of a miracle through Mary,” he said. “Write them down and don’t forget.”

Father Rocky urged everyone to commit to the 54 Day Rosary Novena.

“This one is on steroids,” he said. “It’s 20 decades every day.”

He provided living examples of people who did the novena and their prayers were answered. He also noted the importance of the lesser known Novena to St. Joseph.

“Do it for nine consecutive mornings,” he said. “It is very powerful.”

After hearing the speakers and seeing various inspiring video clips of faith, Caroline Pasetes of St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Church in Crystal Lake said, “Father Rocky was very entertaining and informative. I was truly inspired today and will start the Marian devotion of the 54 Day Rosary Novena.”

Mike Pieper agreed. “This was awesome and the best breakfast yet,” he said. “It was exciting and upbeat. I could feel the Holy Spirit working in the room.”

The vision of the prayer breakfast is to build a stronger spiritual, Catholic community through living our faith.

Music, honors open brunch

Fred Wickham, chairman and founder of the prayer breakfaset, acknowledged the clergy, “who are our shepherds of Christ,” government officials, military personnel, and the police, fire and first responders in attendance.

The spiritual band “WAY” from St. Thomas the Apostle Parish in Crystal Lake sang the National Anthem and “God Bless America.

U.S. Rep. Randy Hultgren (R-14th District) led the pledge of allegiance via video. He also noted how much prayer is needed today.

Father Brian Grady, pastor of St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Parish in Crystal Lake and prayer breakfast chaplain, said grace before the meal, acknowledging the “blessings God has given to us as Catholics and Americans.”

Wickham noted “there are over 110,000 Catholics in McHenry County located in 17 parishes throughout the McHenry County Deanery. We compose 30 percent of McHenry County residents and are a strong voice together.”

Before the two main speakers were introduced, prayer breakfast treasurer Jim Klocek of St. Mary Parish in Woodstock presented the annual St. Paul Evangelization Award to fellow parishioner Bob McNamara.

“He is a man of incredible faith who humbly and quietly helps others in need and leads by example,” Klocek said. “Bob is dedicated to his family and has two sons who are men of faith. Father John is in our own diocese and Father Justin is at the Cistercian Abbey at Our Lady of Dallas in Texas.”