By Kenneth J. Souza, Anchor Staff
FALL RIVER, Mass. — The Massachusetts Knights of Columbus will be participating in a North American relay of sorts to pay special tribute to Our Lady of Guadalupe, patroness of the Americas, through its Silver Rose program.
Sometimes referred to as the “Running of the Rose,” it involves devotion to one of six silver roses — symbolic of the roses that miraculously materialized on Our Lady’s tilma (robe) when she first appeared to St. Juan Diego in December 1531 — that stop at different locations en route to the Shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe in Mexico for her December 12 feast day.
Last year was the first time the Silver Rose in honor of Our Lady of Guadalupe was displayed in Massachusetts. In nine days it is estimated that the single Silver Rose traveled 518 miles and was viewed by nearly 3,000 people.
This year, members of the Massachusetts K of C will once again be traveling with and displaying the New England Silver Rose at various locations within the Fall River Diocese from October 11 through October 19.
“This is the sixth rose this year,” explained Arthur Whittemore, Silver Rose representative and member of the St. Ann Council No. 10289 Knights of Columbus in Raynham, noting that last year’s Silver Rose made its inaugural appearance in Fall River as one of only five.
“Last year the fifth rose was the New England rose that traveled from Canada all the way through to Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, then Massachusetts and down into Rhode Island and finally Connecticut,” Whittemore told The Anchor.
Noting that the rose designated for New England will also take a brief detour into New York this year, Whittemore said another distinction between this and its five counterparts is that it will ultimately end its journey on December 12 at St. Mary’s Church in New Haven, Conn., the place where Father Michael McGivney founded the Knights of Columbus in 1882.
The other five Silver Roses — which originate from British Columbia, Canada; Alberta, Canada; Manitoba, Canada; Ontario, Canada; and Virginia here in the states — will proceed to Texas and cross the international bridge into Mexico where they will then be ushered by the Columbian Squires and placed on the altar at the Shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe in Mexico.
In fact, it is the Columbian Squires — the official youth organization of the Knights of Columbus — who can be credited with inspiring the Silver Rose program.
The group, headed by Brother Miguel Martinez Estrada, Grand Knight Andreas Saucedo and Fray Margil De Jesus of the Nuestra Senora de Monterrey Council No. 2312 in Monterrey, Mexico, first came up with the idea of running a rose to the Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe in Monterrey back in 1960 as a way of honoring Our Lady for her many blessings.
The Squires were so enthused that they wanted to invite fellow Squires from two other countries on the North American continent to participate, so they called on Squires from Laredo, Texas, and London, Ontario to join them. The Canadian Squires were asked to start the relay, running the rose from there through the United States and finishing up in Mexico.
“By the time it got to December 12, it wasn’t a rose that was placed on the altar, but maybe the remnants of a pedal, or a stem,” Whittemore said of the early runs.
In subsequent years, a real rose was supplanted by first a bronze rose and, ultimately, a rose cast in silver, because it remains one of Mexico’s most precious metals.
In 2000, the national Knights of Columbus became involved with the Silver Rose program as a means of promoting the Pro-Life cause, since Our Lady of Guadalupe is an icon frequently linked to Pro-Life efforts.
“The single silver rose symbolizes one life,” Whittemore told The Anchor last year. “What better way to show the love and respect we have for our Blessed Mother, who loves and respects all life, from conception to natural death?”
“Not only is Our Lady of Guadalupe the patron saint of the Americas, she’s also the patron saint of the unborn,” he added.
Having been asked by the Massachusetts K of C to be the point person responsible for coordinating and scheduling where and when the Silver Rose would be on a daily basis last year, Whittemore was only too eager to step into the role again.
“It was on a wing and a prayer that we were able to do this last year,” Whittemore said. “But thankfully God has blessed me with wonderful friends and wonderful brother Knights who think the same way.”
Referring to his relationship with fellow Knight and Silver Rose representative John J. Kourtz Sr. as akin to that of the Lone Ranger and Tonto, Whittemore said the effort couldn’t succeed without his help and support.
“Arthur is being a little modest,” Kourtz countered. “He’s the one who has been making phone calls for the past six months to set everything up. He has to arrange how people transport the rose from place to place, and he doesn’t tell you about all the time he puts into that.”
Working side by side with Whittemore, Kourtz said it was very moving to meet the many people who came out to see the Silver Rose and he is looking forward to that one-on-one experience again this year.
“Sometimes we would spend four or five hours in each place and the time seemed to fly by so quickly,” Kourtz said. “We went to one parish and a woman came up and told us she wished her husband could come and see the rose, but he was an invalid and homebound, so Arthur and I got together and (took the Silver Rose) to her house so he could see it.”
At each stop, the rose is displayed with an image of Our Lady of Guadalupe and there are typically Masses, Benedictions, exposition of the Blessed Sacrament, Rosaries and other prayers. Depending on time constraints, most of the visits slated for the diocese this year will include a prayer service and at least one Mass celebration.
“We try to get to as many parishes as we can in a certain location, so this year we’re going to mostly different parishes,” Whittemore said. “The only two parishes we’re going back to again this year are St. Ann’s (in Raynham) and Our Lady of Guadalupe at St. James in New Bedford. The reason for that is they had the biggest turnouts last year and Our Lady of Guadalupe, in particular, had the biggest turnout of Spanish-speaking people.”
The Silver Rose will also make a return visit to La Salette Shrine in Attleboro, where last year it was placed on the monument to the unborn — a striking statue of two hands cradling an unborn fetus that was donated to the shrine by the Knights in 2010.
“That’s where we had our prayer service last year after the Mass,” Whittemore said. “It was very, very moving.”
Other than these three repeat visits, the rest of this year’s schedule will consist of first-time venues for the “Running of the Rose.”
“We’re trying to reach the other areas of the diocese like Taunton and Attleboro,” Whittemore said. “Next year, I hope to talk to each of the deaneries and see what parishes they’d like us to visit.”
Whittemore and Kourtz expressed gratitude to The Anchor for getting the word out about the Silver Rose program last year and also credited the great support and encouragement they’ve received from pastors, priests and lay people throughout the diocese for its success.
“Besides all the wonderful members of the various councils of Knights of Columbus, we also owe a debt to the people who staff the Pro-Life Apostolate here in the diocese — Marian Desrosiers and Jean Arsenault,” Whittemore added. “It’s always a team effort — it’s not about ‘I’ or ‘we’ — and it’s whatever God wants, it’s not what I want.”
The Silver Rose will actually make its first appearance in the diocese on October 5 which is, appropriately enough, Respect Life Sunday, when it will be displayed during the weekly TV Mass on WLNE Channel 6 at 11 a.m.
The Silver Rose can then be viewed in person at the following locations:
— October 11 at Holy Family Parish, 438 Middleboro Avenue in East Taunton, beginning with 7:30 a.m. Rosary, Mass and prayer service;
— October 11 at La Salette Shrine, 947 Park Street in Attleboro, for a 1:30 p.m. Mass and Adoration;
— October 12 at St. Ann Parish, 660 North Main Street in Raynham, during 8 a.m., 9:30 a.m., 11 a.m., and 5 p.m. Masses;
— October 13 at St. Nicholas of Myra Parish, 499 Spring Street in Raynham, during the 9 a.m. Mass;
— October 13 at St. Dominic Parish, 1277 Grand Army Highway (Route 6) in Swansea, for a 7 p.m. Mass and prayer service;
— October 14 at Annunciation of the Lord Parish, 31 First Street in Taunton, for a 7 p.m. Mass and prayer service;
— October 15 at Holy Cross Family Ministries, St. Joseph Chapel, 500 Washington Street (Route 138) in Easton, for an 11:30 a.m. Mass and Rosary;
— October 15 at Holy Cross Parish, 225 Purchase Street in South Easton, for a 7:30 p.m. Mass and prayer service;
— October 16 at Our Lady of Guadalupe at St. James Parish, 233 County Street in New Bedford, for a 7 p.m. Mass in Spanish;
— October 17 at Our Lady of Guadalupe at St. James Parish, 233 County Street in New Bedford, for a 9 a.m. Mass in English;
— October 18 at St. Patrick Parish, 511 Main Street in Falmouth, for a 9 a.m. Mass;
— October 18 at Our Lady of Mount Carmel Parish, 984 Taunton Avenue in Seekonk, for a 4:30 p.m. Mass;
— October 19 at Our Lady of Mount Carmel Parish, 984 Taunton Avenue in Seekonk, during 7:30 a.m., 9 a.m. and 10:45 a.m. Masses.
On the afternoon of October 19, the Silver Rose will be passed into Rhode Island.
For more information about the Running of the Rose, visit www.runningoftherose.org. For specific visit information, contact the parishes listed above.