Father Peyton’s Pilgrims: New Museum Is Inspired by Legacy of the ‘Rosary Priest’

Our Lady of Providence (shown above in background and below) has been connected to Father Patrick Peyton since his first radio broadcast; the Marian statue is a hallmark of the Museum of Family Prayer, which encourages invocations through a variety of interactive exhibits that showcase Father Peyton’s legacy. (Photos courtesy of Holy Cross Family Ministries)

Father Peyton’s Pilgrims: New Museum Is Inspired by Legacy of the ‘Rosary Priest’

The Museum of Family Prayer presents family prayer in a manner that appeals to all ages.

“The family that prays together stays together.” Father Patrick Peyton — who has been deemed “Venerable” by the Church — coined this famous aphorism familiar to tens of millions to inspire and promote family prayer, especially the Rosary.

Holy Cross Family Ministries, which continues Father Peyton’s work, is opening a museum dedicated to family prayer in North Easton, Massachusetts, on Sept. 15. It is located 42 miles southeast of Boston on the verdant grounds adjacent to Stonehill College and adjoining the headquarters of Holy Cross Family Ministries.

The Museum of Family Prayer (MuseumofFamilyPrayer.org) presents the story of Father Peyton, his vision and ministry of family prayer in a manner that appeals to all ages.

A cascade of rosaries of all colors and sizes, simple and ornate, by the dozens, appear in front of a huge mural honoring Father Peyton, known as the “Rosary Priest.”

One case included in the rosary exhibit holds Father Peyton’s own 150-year-old rosary beads. Visitors learn the fascinating history of these beads. This rosary originally belonged to Father Edward Sorin, the first Holy Cross missionary in the United States and founder of the University of Notre Dame.

Father Peyton’s cassock and garb tell another story. His height is evident, as his cassock reveals he was over 6 feet, 3 inches tall.

Prayer, as the name attests, is the focus. One interactive display invites visitors to press a button to hear a Psalm in English, another button to hear the same Psalm in Spanish, and a third to hear the Psalm again in Hebrew.

“Our hope is when people come they will be immersed in prayer, beginning with prayers to the Holy Family of Nazareth,” explained Holy Cross Father Willy Raymond, president of Holy Cross Family Ministries (HCFM.org) and former national director of Family Theater Productions. “The goal is to immerse people who come here as pilgrims in prayer, especially family prayer.”

The focal point of prayer is the Our Lady of the Holy Rosary Chapel. An image of the Holy Family of Nazareth is enshrined over the central tabernacle. “We want people to go on a journey,” Father Raymond said, “with the first experience being prayer around the world.”

This journey begins in the rotunda, with its wall of multimedia images showing myriad people at prayer. 

Adjoining the rotunda, a long hallway, with its attractively marbleized walls, invites visitors and pilgrims to examine the different displays. Among them are the huge Wallace Family Bible, a testament to family prayer that the family carried from County Cork in 1886 and is on loan from Susan Wallace, director of external relations for Holy Cross Family Ministries, who is “so excited that my family is part of the museum,” and a variety of crucifixes and images presenting mysteries of the Rosary, such as the Last Supper (Fourth Luminous Mystery) and the Fourth Sorrowful Mystery. Everything leads toward focusing on the Rosary and family prayer.

Off the hall, the Family Room encourages families to spend some time together — as Father Peyton envisioned. There are books for reading and space to chat and relax. As Father Peyton explained about his family and faith, “My home was a school, a library, a domestic church, where I learned everything, all the essentials I needed to be who I am today.”

The Rosary Priest mural filling the end of the hall ushers visitors into the exhibit of Father Peyton’s life. This year celebrates the 110th anniversary of his birth. Personal mementos, writings, pictures of him and his family, and videos on a large screen all highlight his upbringing and path to the priesthood and his prayerful mission. Tour guides are eager to explain displays and, of course, the priest’s connection to his beloved Rosary.

The room’s blue walls, with swirls of white like wisps of clouds, also incorporate a large rosary in the overall design. This theme carries on in other areas of the museum, providing a peaceful atmosphere and a gentle prompt to prayer, complete with Marian images.

In 1942 Father Peyton founded the Family Rosary radio program to promote family prayer. Connected to that show and on display in the museum is the beautiful five-foot-tall image of Our Lady of Providence. When Father Peyton visited the Guild Theater on 52nd Street  in New York City from which the show would be broadcast, a fellow priest said the space looked bare. So they went to nearby Benzinger’s religious goods store and saw this statue in the window, and Father Peyton asked if he could borrow it for the broadcast. Not only did the owner give him the statue, but he handed over a tidy amount of cash for flowers in Our Lady’s honor. Thereafter, Our Lady of Providence remained with Father Peyton. Before the museum’s opening, this beautiful depiction of Our Lady was sent to Chicago, where it was restored to its original colors during that first radio broadcast, which featured Bing Crosby, President Harry Truman, Archbishop Francis Spellman of New York and the Sullivan family, who lost five sons in World War II, leading the Rosary.

Another statue depicting the Blessed Mother and Jesus now at home in the museum once belonged to friends of Father Peyton. When he stayed at their home, he would pray before this statue and bid goodnight to Mary and the Baby Jesus, touching their heads. During his many stays, the paint eventually wore away; the prayer-worn spots can now be viewed by visitors.

As founder of Family Rosary and then, in 1947, Family Theater Productions, Father Peyton used radio, television, film, the printed word and even billboards (200,000 around the nation) to reach the masses with his prayerful proclamations. In his footsteps the museum makes good use of modern media of all sorts, including videos, large multiscreens and interactive consoles that feature touch-of-a-button displays.

These exhibits are far advanced from the way Father Peyton would show his films. Amazingly, his original projector, its huge carrying case and original film cans are on display. He would tote these together with a generator in a jeep to remote areas where the only screen was literally a white bed sheet. Photographs of Father Peyton’s 260 Rosary Rallies cover one wall, highlighting the prayer events and the massive crowds he drew — 80,000 at his first rally and more than 28 million in total. One video shows what an impassioned speaker he was:

“The Rosary … has proven its power. Its excellence. Its greatness. Its worthiness of the hands and hearts and voices of men long ago. It has made the millions and the millions and the millions of human beings reach their hands for it — and their hearts for it.”

Joseph Pronechen is a

Register staff writer.

Parking and admission are free. Outside the museum is the outdoor Rosary Walk. Visitors can also walk the short distance to pray at Father Peyton’s burial site.

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