On Saturday, October 1, Catholics from all over the San Francisco Bay Area will join Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone at the city’s Cathedral of St. Mary of the Assumption for the 12th annual Rosary Rally.

On Corpus Christi Sunday, 2022, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops declared 2022-2025 to be a three-year process of Eucharistic Revival  to strengthen Catholics’ faith and devotion to the Holy Eucharist. This year’s rally will give the faithful a chance to participate in that revival.

Saturday’s events will begin at the cathedral with confessions at 9:30 am, followed by Mass celebrated by the archbishop at 10:00 am, concluding with the distribution of the green scapular and blessed handmade rosaries.  At 11:30 am a Eucharistic procession from the cathedral to St. Boniface Catholic Church with the Missionaries of Charity. Once arriving at St. Boniface the faithful will pray the Rosary, one decade each led by the Franciscan Friars, students from Marin Catholic High School, students from de Merillac Academy, and the Missionaries of Charity.

At 12:40 pm Father Mark Doherty, president-rector of St. Patrick’s Seminary and University, will give the keynote address, and at 1:00 pm there will be a renewal of the consecration of the archdiocese of San Francisco to the Immaculate Heart of Mary,  Benediction, and closing prayer.

San Francisco’s Annual Rosary Rally began in 2011 on the 50th anniversary of Father Patrick Peyton’s 1961 Rosary Rally in the city’s Golden Gate Park, which drew an estimated 600,000 people — still the largest gathering in the history of San Francisco. The current rallies draw between 2,000-3,000 people, an indication of the  decline of the faith in the city of St. Francis.

But, as Archbishop Cordileone said, “There is hope to be found – if we are to rediscover the missionary zeal by which the West for 2,000 years found life and purpose.”

But what is that life, that purpose?

“The Second Vatican Council famously articulates the Eucharist as the source and summit of the Christian life. If that is the case, which as Catholics we firmly believe, then it seems entirely reasonable that a return commitment to our mission would entail a recovery of that which gives us the most life, the most purpose, that is, the Eucharist. To remember the mission of our great civilization, in many ways, is to recall the importance of the place of the most Blessed Sacrament in our societies, in our parishes, and in our lives.”

The revitalization of the Church through a renewed dedication to the Blessed Sacrament is evidenced by the revitalization of San Francisco’s Star of the Sea parish, which began perpetual adoration in 2016. I spoke with Father Joseph Illo, pastor of Star of the Sea, and archdiocesan coordinator of the Rosary Rally.

Father Illo: When I arrived at Star of the Sea, Mass attendance was in steep decline, and there was talk of merging it with another parish. What could I do with eight large deteriorating buildings, not enough Sunday offertory to cover minimal operating expenses, and a declining, mostly elderly population still at Mass, dreading the day the archdiocese would announce the closure of their parish?

“Well, Pope Francis had just urged pastors to keep the church doors open and the lights on for the people, so I started by keeping the church open all day. It took much concerted effort to convince people to stop using the church as a social club, but soon enough people began to love the stillness and prayerfulness of kneeling in silence before the tabernacle.

“I knew that these people needed to see the Eucharist, so every few months we added another day of adoration, encouraging people to sign up for one hour a week. They had a right and a need to see the Blessed Sacrament on the altar between burning candles, and they gave $300,000 to restore the main altar and build a 24-hour Eucharistic chapel.

“The secret to a ‘Eucharistic Revival’ is no secret. It’s simply building up Eucharistic adoration, along with reverent and faithful worship at Mass, in every parish. Our income has tripled since we started adoration, allowing us to restore all of our decaying buildings, to start a Classical Academy, and to fund many charitable projects such as building a small hospital in Kenya and feeding the poor every Sunday in the Tenderloin.

“Mass attendance has steadily increased, and men have entered the seminary and sacramental marriage in healthy numbers. Every good thing comes from Jesus in the Holy Eucharist, as the bishops point out, and the Eucharistic delivery system is quite simple: reverent Masses and Eucharistic adoration.”

To learn more about the 2022 Rosary Rally, go here.

– Gibbons Cooney