By Kenneth J. Souza
ATTLEBORO, Mass. — For nearly four years, a group of devoted families in the Attleboro area has been living Servant of God Father Patrick Peyton’s famous adage “the family that prays together, stays together,” by coming together each month to pray the rosary before a traveling shrine known as the Pilgrim Queen of the Family.
“It’s really a great opportunity to bring the family together,” said Shawn Seybert of St. John the Evangelist Parish in Attleboro. “We all seem so crazy-busy that during this time we make it a priority to sit down and pray together because she’s there. It’s not overwhelming, but yet it has a way of permeating your family life.”
“I think it has strengthened us as a family,” agreed fellow St. John the Evangelist parishioner Jim Castro. “It’s nice to have that anchor during the month to set aside some time for prayer.”
This growing devotion to the rosary and Our Lady all began with a simple suggestion on the part of Father Kermit Syren, who had dinner one night at Seybert’s home.
“Father Syren brought the shrine with him and left it with us,” Seybert said. “We said the rosary together that night and he suggested I get 10 families together to start a group. Each family has the shrine for three days and then they transfer it to the next family, so once a month each family hosts Our Lady for three days.”
The shrine is a simple wooden triptych with the iconic image of Our Lady of Guadalupe as its centerpiece, flanked by a rosary and the four sets of mysteries on one side and a pledge to dutifully pray the rosary each month on the other.
“The shrine is very unassuming — that’s kind of Our Lady’s way,” Seybert said. “It also comes with a rosary and a little prayer book that helps with teaching the kids.”
Devotion to the Pilgrim Queen of the Family was sanctioned and blessed by Pope John Paul II shortly before his death in 2004. It entails forming a group of 10 families that each commit to hosting Our Lady’s shrine for three days during the month and to pray the rosary faithfully each of those three nights.
“Each family picks three days on the calendar — ours is the eighth, ninth and 10th of the month — so you know for those three days the shrine will be at your house,” Seybert said. “Then it makes a pilgrimage to the next house. Each shrine group makes up a monthly schedule.”
“When you welcome Our Lady into your home, you are also agreeing to pray for your parish priest, for your diocesan bishop, for other families and to honor life,” added Kathy Davis, who belongs to one of four Pilgrim Queen of the Family groups now active at St. Joseph’s Parish in Attleboro. “Those are some of the intentions that are included with the shrine.”
Davis said a friend of hers was involved with one of the Pilgrim Queen groups that started at St. John’s Parish after Seybert’s initial meeting with Father Syren and the devotion quickly spread in her own parish to the point where four groups of 10 families were assembled in less than a year.
“Our Lady is very active in reaching out to her children,” Davis said. “It really brings family together, too, because they pick a quiet moment out of their busy schedule to sit together in prayer. She brings a sense of peace and comfort with her and that really strengthens the family relationship.”
The Pilgrim Queen of the Family recently made international news when several of the wooden shrines were given to family members of the 33 Chilean miners trapped almost a half-mile underground in the San José copper-gold mines.
Seybert said he was surprised with how easy it was to get 10 families to commit to the monthly devotion, and they’ve now spawned two groups at St. John the Evangelist Parish in Attleboro, four groups at St. Joseph’s Parish in Attleboro, one group at St. Mark’s Parish in Attleboro Falls, with several others in nearby Rhode Island.
“It’s not a huge obligation to say the rosary for half-an-hour three nights a week during the month,” he said, “and it bore a lot of fruit here in our parish, too. We’ve been able to organize a men’s group, a women’s group, and all the Attleboro youth groups are starting to link together, and I think it’s because of the intercession of Mary through these shrine groups.”
“Some of the cool things have been when we’ve had friends over to pray with us, or when we brought her to Cape Cod on vacation once,” Castro agreed. “It’s been nice to expose others to Our Lady a little bit.”
“That’s part of the joy with this type of ministry — getting other families or friends to join you,” Davis said. “Having others join you really strengthens your will to do it. It’s also good to know we’re not the only ones praying the rosary.”
On October 15 all of the Attleboro-based Pilgrim Queen families came together for a social gathering and Mass at La Salette Shrine celebrated by Father Kermit Syren.
“I think we had about 80 people there,” Seybert said.
“It was a great opportunity to not only celebrate Mass but also to enjoy each others’ company,” Davis agreed.
Everyone involved with the Pilgrim Queen of the Family ministry has found it to be not only beneficial to their own families, but also in bringing a greater awareness to the power of praying the rosary.
“I certainly think devotion to the rosary has been growing through this program,” Castro said. “Since this started, we now know there are at least 80 families in the Attleboro area praying the rosary on a regular basis — where there weren’t any three-and-a-half years ago.”
“It’s helped us to focus on prayer when life would otherwise just pass us by,” Seybert agreed. “Even if it’s only a couple days a month, it’s more than we would do otherwise.”
For more information about the Pilgrim Queen of the Family shrine and devotion, visit www.pilgrimqueen.org/home.phtml.