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Meet the “Rosary Priest” who enlisted Hollywood stars on a prayer crusade

Congregation of the Holy Cross

Philip Kosloski - published on 03/12/17

Father Patrick Peyton's productions featured actors such as Bing Crosby, Loretta Young and Gregory Peck

In the midst of World War II, Father Patrick Peyton, a priest of the Congregation of Holy Cross, knew that there was only one thing families across the nation needed to do to ensure peace at home and abroad.

Pray the Rosary.

His parents had taught him the importance of the Rosary back in Ireland, kneeling together as a family every day to pray the rosary. Additionally Father Peyton believed the Blessed Mother miraculously healed him from tuberculosis while studying as a seminarian and made a vow to spread her love to all the world.

But how could he, an insignificant Irish immigrant, reach millions of people and tell them about the power of the Rosary?

Without having any background or influence in mass media, Father Peyton went to New York and convinced a woman from the Mutual Broadcasting System that the nation needed a Catholic radio program. The non-Christian woman decided to give Father Peyton a chance on one condition: he needed to enlist the help of Hollywood stars.

Father Peyton nervously called Bing Crosby and somehow, with the help of Our Lady, was able to win him over for the cause. The radio show hit airwaves on May 13, 1945 and featured “Archbishop Spellman of New York, President Harry Truman, Bing Crosby and the parents and sister of the Sullivan family of Iowa leading the Rosary… Father Peyton finished the program with an impassioned plea for families to pray the Rosary together for peace.”

The success of the first show was overwhelming and listeners were asking for more.

Father Peyton then went on a crusade to make his show a regular program, and established Family Theater Productions in 1947 with Hollywood stars eager to support him in his work. His various productions would go on to feature stars such as “Grace Kelly, Gregory Peck, Rosalind Russell, Jimmy Stewart, Helen Hayes, Ronald Reagan, James Dean, Natalie Wood, Robert Young, Raymond Burr, Lucille Ball, Bob Newhart, Jack Benny, Loretta Young and Frank Sinatra.”

Read more: Hollywood star Loretta Young rebelled against studio pressure to have abortion

Radio was just the beginning for Father Peyton, who branched out into television and film production with the help of his Hollywood friends. His new company would go on to produce more than 800 radio programs and 83 TV specials featuring some of the biggest stars around. According to Family Theater Productions, they even “gave noted film producer/director George Lucas (Star Wars) his first film credit — as an assistant cameraman — in the mid-1960s for a short, The Soldier, starring William Shatner.”

Additionally, Father Peyton would go on to lead Rosary Rallies across the world, attracting massive crowds anywhere he went. He soon became known as the “Rosary Priest” and popularized the phrase “The family that prays together stays together.”

Father Petyon would continue his work spreading the Rosary up until his death in 1992. His life remains an inspiration to all, especially those who want to use mass media for the promotion of the Gospel.

On June 1, 2001, Cardinal Sean Patrick O’Malley officially opened his cause for canonization and in 2015 the Positio, “a 1,300 page report that studied his life and ministry for heroic virtue and sanctity of life,” was presented to the Vatican. It is currently under review and once approved, Father Peyton would be declared Venerable. There are already two potential miracles through his intercession that may be considered once this phase of the process is concluded.

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