DELRAY BEACH | Students at St. Vincent Ferrer School honored Mary on the feast of the Immaculate Conception, Dec. 8, 2022, with a live presentation of a “living rosary.” For each Hail Mary, children placed a lit candle to form the shape of a rosary, and The Rock youth group in grades 6-8 acted out each mystery of the rosary.
In his homily, Father Dennis Gonzales, the parish’s pastor, asked the schoolchildren, “What is the name of the solemnity that we celebrate today?” A student answered, “The Immaculate Conception.” Father Gonzales then asked, “What does the Immaculate Conception mean?” Another student answered, “Without sin.”
“Mary was a prayerful young girl,” Father Gonzales said. “How can you be like Mary?” One child said, “By saying ‘yes’ to God.” The priest asked the question, “What does God ask you to do?” A student said, “Love your neighbor,” and another said, “Pray.” Father Gonzales said, “Yes, to pray and come to Mass every Sunday, right?”
Some of the other answers by the students included helping rake leaves, doing the dishes, giving money to the poor, respecting the Lord, saying kind words to one another, accepting what God asks of you, being kind to each other, loving one another.
“Mary showed joy. Wherever she went, she showed joy. Even though sometimes she experienced pain, she showed joy because she followed Jesus,” Father Gonzales said. “All those things you mentioned to me, if you do them you will always be a joyful child, a joyful person, and it will show.”
At the Mass, the pastor blessed 10 new members of the school’s Disciples of Mary group and gave a general blessing to the faithful holding statues of the Virgin Mary and Immaculate Conception medals.
The Disciples of Mary have been meeting for weeks to learn and to pray together. They studied together what is called the “Five Tasks of Mary’s Child,” which are obedience, community, joy, sacrifice and friendship with Jesus through the Blessed Mother.
“Dear girls and boys, I welcome you to the group of the Disciples of Mary, and I will bless you for your mission,” Father Gonzales said. “Let the Miraculous Medal of Mary Immaculate and the statues of the Blessed Mary that you will receive be yours as a shield against evil and remind you that you belong to Mary as her children.”
Sister Elizabeth Halaj and Sister Elizabeth Kulesa, members of the Little Servant Sisters of the Immaculate Conception, on the feast day of their order, were presented with a bouquet of roses from the students in appreciation for their dedication, kindness and direction that they give to the youngsters.
“Today we ask our Blessed Mother to shower blessings on Immaculate Conception. We are so grateful to have Sister Elizabeth H and Sister Elizabeth K here with us,” said a young student. “We thank you for all you do here at St. Vincent Ferrer School and Parish. You are spiritual mothers to all of us.”
Sister Halaj teaches religion, including sacramentals, from kindergarten to eighth grade at the school and coaches them on performing the living rosary. “We give them knowledge. We teach kindness. We give them values. We give them faith.”
Sister Kulesa, who teaches third-grade religion, explained how important it is to be a witness for God, saying, “The children need to see the witness of the sisters doing God’s work and to serve God. For them it is exciting to hear that you work for God.”
“Social media and advertisements tell the kids if you do this or get this, you will be happy,” Sister Halaj said. “When the children are with us, they see something different. They reflect, and some say to us, ‘I want to be like you.’”
Iris Pavon, who has two children attending St. Vincent Ferrer, said, “Both sisters, Sister Elizabeth K and Sister Elizabeth H, are a blessing to the school. They teach the children love and kindness. They teach them the faith and give them the hope that they need in this world.”