1 million Hail Marys – SCB jumpstarts effort to pray for Pope Francis

When ISIS threatened Pope Francis, calling him the “bearer of false truth,” the students of St. Charles Borromeo Elementary in Destrehan sprang to action by praying Hail Marys for his safety.

It started in September.

By Holy Week in March, they hit their goal of 1 million Hail Marys and then exceeded it.

The idea took hold in Mary Benoit’s religion class.Benoit saw a religious group looking for 10,000 prayers to protect the pope on Facebook so they decided to do it, too.

“Praying is one of the best things we do at school, right after excellent education,” she said. “Our kids are really committed to their spiritual life.”

The number seemed unfathomable, but the prayers continued.

“By mid-year, we were woefully short at half way and we started worrying – what if we don’t reach this goal,” said Mary Schmidt, principal of St. Charles Borromeo Elementary. “How do we explain this to the children.”

Right about that same time, though, the students’ grandparents got involved and the total started rising faster.

“We realized what you can’t do alone, you can certainly do with the help of others,” Schmidt said.

And that’s when students at St. Matthew the Apostle, St. Charles Catholic and Brother Martin high schools and their family and friends in the New Orleans area community joined in the effort. Among others joining the effort were the St. Jude Society at St. Mary Magdalen Parish in Metairie, sixth graders at St. Matthew the Apostle in River Ridge and St. Mary’s Messenger children’s national magazine, which reprinted the Clarion Herald article on the papal Hail Mary drive in its spring issue.

The numbers kept coming as word spread.

“The kids at the school are absolutely convinced in the power of prayer and that God listens to children’s prayers in a special way,” Schmidt said.

By January, the number of Hail Marys exploded.

On Holy Thursday, a week before they expected to reach the goal, Benoit had seven students display placards that displayed the count: 1,031,840. As of early April, the number was at 1.3 million Hail Marys and they intend to keep going until the end of this year.

Our next step is to send a message to the pope that this little Catholic school in Destrehan prayed 1 million Hail Marys for his safety,” Schmidt said. They hope to relay their success to a friend who works in the Vatican. The message will be written on an aerial photograph of the students forming an “85” to commemorate the school anniversary.

“This Holy Spirit is very powerful and we have no idea what will happen next,” she said.

Actually, Schmidt has a plan.

“I told my staff, if the pope calls – find me wherever I am.”


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