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NORWOOD -- The archdiocese's 15th annual Children's Eucharistic Holy Hour was both smaller and larger than in previous years. Taking place in St. Catherine of Siena Church in Norwood on Oct. 7, the feast of Our Lady of the Rosary, it was smaller in that fewer people were physically present, but larger because more people were able to participate via livestream.
The Children's Eucharistic Holy Hour is an international event organized by the World Apostolate of Fatima, encouraging children to pray for peace and learn about Our Lady of Fatima. Boston's chapter of the apostolate usually holds its Holy Hour at the Cathedral of the Holy Cross, with hundreds of students from local Catholic schools participating. The apostolate usually invites students from grades three through five, who are about the same ages the three Fatima visionaries were when they saw Our Lady's apparitions in 1917.
This year, the event looked different in light of the coronavirus pandemic. With restrictions on school field trips and the indoor capacity of churches, the only school whose students and teachers were present was St. Catherine of Siena School. However, to enable other schools to participate, the apostolate worked with the Catholic Schools Office to livestream the event and promote it to the archdiocese's Catholic schools.
The YouTube livestream of the event received over 2,400 views, many to classrooms full of students and homeschooling families. In addition, schools from other states, including New Hampshire, Ohio, California, and Arizona, had their students watch and pray along with the program. There were even some registrants from Serbia, The Czech Republic, and Poland.
"We never thought we'd have that kind of viewership," Father Edward Riley, who led the Holy Hour, said in an Oct. 13 interview. Father Riley is the spiritual director of the World Apostolate of Fatima in Boston.
Based on the registration numbers, Colleen Donohoe of the Catholic Schools Office estimated that over 5,000 people from local Catholic schools participated from their classrooms.
Donohoe said she took the event as "further proof that even in the midst of a pandemic and the many restrictions placed upon us that we cannot contain the love of Jesus Christ."
Inside St. Catherine of Siena Church, the children wore face masks and sat at wide intervals across the pews to ensure social distancing. After a procession with a statue of Our Lady of Fatima and the exposition of the Blessed Sacrament, Father Riley led the students, teachers, and chaperones in praying the World Mission Rosary. Students took turns going up to a microphone to recite each prayer.
At the end of the Holy Hour, Father Riley told the students he hoped they would try to pray the rosary every day and help to lead their families in praying together.
Rosanne Dulong, who teaches third grade at St. Catherine of Siena School, said, "The children were so excited to think that so many children from other schools would be sharing in the celebration. They were proud to be a part of the Holy Hour."
Nicole Junkas, a fifth-grade teacher, said the students "felt honored and blessed to participate in the Eucharistic Holy Hour."
"It was such a special event to be part of," she said.