This Rosary of Hope program lets people around the world spiritually adopt those fighting the virus.
Father Andrés Esteban López is the pastor of Holy Family Parish, located in the heart of one of Mexico City’s working-class districts. At the beginning of April this year, Fr. López started Rosaries of Hope, with the help of other priests from his own parish and members of the Catholic faithful.
What is Rosaries of Hope? Faced with the impossibility of getting into public hospitals to give spiritual attention to the sick infected by Covid-19, Father López thought it would be a good idea for people to spiritually “adopt” sick people, doctors, nurses, and cleaning and security staff, and to pray the Rosary for them from a distance.
The idea was welcomed with fervor by hundreds of faithful, who prayed the Joyful Mysteries for a doctor, the Luminous Mysteries for a nurse, the Sorrowful Mysteries for the dying, and the Glorious Mysteries for a member of the cleaning and security staff at the hospitals.
The purpose of this prayer campaign, López told news outlet Desde la Fe, is for Our Lady to “enter where we cannot go and console those who are suffering.” But Fr. López is persistent, and he wanted to enter the hospital physically as well as spiritually.
Thanks to his determination, Fr. López managed to reverse the initial refusal of health authorities and the directors of the General Hospital of Mexico, the largest hospital in Latin America. It took him almost a month, but he finally obtained permission to pray in person with critically ill patients.
The idea for Rosaries of Hope was born when Fr. Lopez went to hear the confession of a woman who had been infected with the virus. The woman eventually recovered from the illness, but the priest thought that there would be many other gravely ill people, isolated in hospitals, who would be facing the end of their life alone and he wanted to be there for them.
He also wanted to approach the doctors. He told Desde la Fe,
“Many doctors are really suffering. They are afraid, but they have no choice but to be there, and the great majority are truly courageous, because even at the risk of contagion, they’ve decided to stay on board the ship.”
When Fr. López finally entered the Intensive Care Unit of the General Hospital, he fulfilled his deepest desire: to accompany the dying with a last blessing, the Anointing of the Sick, prayer, and the mercy of God through the absolution of their sins, and also to offer spiritual support to the medical personnel who attend to them.
This is how reporter Elías Camhaji of El País describes what Fr. Lopez does in the hospital:
“He prayed for a moment in silence and then went to the next room. The doctors and nurses were paralyzed for a moment and looked at him. It was as if they were saying to him: ‘What [are you] doing here? Everyone wants to get out of here, but you want to get in.’”
El País reports that during his rounds, Fr. López prayed for the end of the pandemic, for the salvation of the dying, for the eternal rest of the deceased, and for the health care workers to have faith and strength. “And the feeling of discomfort and fear was gone,” Camjaji concludes.
A sign of hope
With only three minutes allotted per patient to administer Anointing of the Sick and Absolution, Fr. Lopez is beginning to become a familiar figure among doctors and some patients who have spent some time in Intensive Care, as well as among the relatives of the sick, who wait outside for news.
“Perhaps we cannot remedy all the bitterness caused by this pandemic, but perhaps we can give a sign of hope,” said Fr. López to El País. He, along with two other young priests of Holy Family Parish, brought messages from relatives, written on rolls of toilet paper or on bottles of water.
For those who want to “adopt” one of the people enrolled in the Rosary of Hope from afar, Father López has written the following prayer of offering, which he posted on his Facebook page:
“O Jesus, for your love, for the conversion of sinners, and for the salvation of souls, I offer you this holy Rosary, and today in particular I offer it for a person who is dying, so that in the company of the Virgin Mary you may receive his soul at the moment of his death. I offer you this Holy Rosary for the doctors, nurses, priests, nuns and all the personnel who work in hospitals taking care of the sick. May Jesus receive this Rosary of Hope and save us.”