St. Francis de Sales Church takes the ‘rosary challenge’

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Father Ronald S. Escalante, pastor of St. Francis de Sales Church in Purcellville, came up with a creative program to encourage his parishioners to pray the rosary. Beginning the weekend of Sept. 13, Father Escalante issued a "rosary challenge" to his parishioners.

The program is set up in the form of a challenge, where parishioners can track certain levels of accomplishment if they commit to and complete their pledge to say the rosary. Parishioners who pledge to say the rosary just once a week, for instance, are automatically enrolled in" Cloud 1 Level: Order of the Guardian Angels." Different levels of pledge fulfillment qualify parishioners to participate in various parish clubs. The ultimate goal is for parishioners to pledge 100,000 rosaries before the 100th anniversary of the apparitions of Our Lady of Fatima in 2017.

A website,, has been set up to help coordinate the challenge and assist parishioners in fulfilling their rosary pledges. The website showcases valuable resources for participants, including instructions on how to pray the rosary, audio recordings of the mysteries of the rosary, lists of the club activities available, as well as a detailed explanation of the mission and purpose of the rosary challenge.

There are many diverse options - the adventurers' clubs, for instance, which includes the bike riders club and the outdoorsmen club, or the health clubs, which include the cancer survivors club; or the travelers club, or the firefighters club. The group of special interests clubs include everything from a club for people who brew their own beer, to a club for video gamers, and a club for those with an interest in magic tricks.

Father Escalante hopes the clubs will help parishioners with similar interests connect.

"All this got started because I've been running into so many issues with people getting in trouble, marriages failing and families breaking up," said Father Escalante. "You know, you can only do so much, but I thought: (maybe you) can't do anything about those issues, but you can make yourself spiritually ready to handle these things."

Father Escalante said that he's seen people receive incredible graces and blessings from praying the rosary, helping them "develop a closer relationship with God and the church."

"This has been a great tool for centuries," he said.

The inspiration for the rosary challenge came to him after he asked the cloistered Dominican nuns in Linden to pray for him as he thought of ways to encourage the parish to pray the rosary. He said he modeled the program after some capital campaigns he's seen where certain challenges and goals are set for donors.

"I was watching the way they make it palatable for people to donate and set goals for them. So I said, 'Why can't I do this with the rosary?'"

The first weekend of the rosary pledge drive met with resounding success, with more than 600 written-in-the-pew pledges submitted. By Sept. 28, Father Escalante reported more than 1,400 signed pledges. The challenge also is open to non-parishioners.

Affirming the intercessory power of Our Lady, the rosary challenge appeals to participants to avail themselves of her help, especially in light of the troubles that afflict families in the modern world.

"To pray the rosary is to hand over our burdens to the merciful hearts of Christ and His Mother," proclaims a banner on the website, with a quote from St. John Paul II to encourage parishioners to pray the rosary.

Mann is a freelance writer from Northern Virginia.

© Arlington Catholic Herald 2015