By Patricia O’Connell
FITCHBURG – Father Leonard Mary, a member of the Franciscan Missionaries of the Eternal Word, has a very familiar face. He’s often seen on the Catholic Eternal Word Television Network, where he celebrates televised Masses.
The California native is also a chaplain for employees at EWTN, which has an international audience.
Early next month, Father Leonard Mary will travel to Fitchburg to lead a retreat at a former parish, and to deliver a spiritual talk at another. His visit is part of a six-day celebration of the Sept. 8 birthday of Our Blessed Mother, organized by WQPH 89.3 FM radio. This station is an affiliate of the EWTN global radio network.
Nearly three years ago, WQPH went on the air. The call letters stand for “Our Lady of Perpetual Help.”
In earlier interviews, station backer Mary Ann Harold of Medford, founder of a national organization called Prayers for Life, said she wanted to bring Catholic radio to the North County in order to evangelize and to help bring people back to church.
The station has struggled at times with technical difficulties, but has remained on the air.
At 6 p.m. on Tuesday, Sept. 8, a living Rosary is scheduled in the church hall of the former Madonna of the Holy Rosary Parish. According to Joan Conroy, one of the festival organizers, Father Joseph M. Dolan, pastor of St. Bernard Parish at St. Camillus de Lellis Church, will begin with a talk on Saint Dominic and the rosary. She said they hope to have one participant for each bead of the rosary, who will recite the prayer assigned to them and carry a rose to the Madonna statue outside. One person will crown the statue and benediction will follow. Cake and ice cream will be served in honor of Our Lady, she said.
On Saturday, Sept. 12, Father Leonard Mary will also come to Madonna to lead a retreat from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. (Requested donation is $25). From 3 to 3:45 p.m. he will hear confessions; then offer Mass in the former parish church at 4 p.m.
On Monday, Sept. 14, the feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross, Father Leonard Mary will be at St. Camillus Church, where he’ll offer a noontime Mass. This will be followed by a luncheon in the church hall (suggested donation is $22) and a talk. After the talk, Father Leonard Mary will be available for questions and answers.
Mrs. Harold said the fact that Father Leonard Mary is coming to Fitchburg is “such a blessing.” She said this will give people the chance to get advice from a well-known spiritual director.
The event is also designed as a “radio-a-thon” to raise money for the station. Mrs. Harold said this will happen during the Saturday retreat, which is part of the reason it was scheduled.
“(There will be) intense prayer going on in the same facility,” she added. “Our Lady will bring us the graces that we need to carry on our apostolate.”
Mrs. Harold said Father Leonard Mary will also be able to carry prayer requests back to the EWTN headquarters in Irondale, Ala. The network was founded in the early 1980s by Mother Mary Angelica of the Annunciation, of the Poor Clares of Perpetual Adoration, a Franciscan religious order.
The radio-a-thon is being held in hopes of bringing the local EWTN affiliate to the next stage, according to Mrs. Harold. She hopes to soon launch local programming, held live at various parishes, as well as Spanish-language shows.
Part of the mission of the station, she explained, is to “promote the parishes and the work being done in our area.”
Mrs. Harold said all donations are needed and appreciated. She recently received a $1 bill, wrapped in a napkin, for which she was grateful.
“We’re trusting in God to help us,” she said.
Mrs. Harold admitted it’s been a long road getting to this point. One of the difficulties she and a group of dedicated volunteers has had to overcome was a lightening strike on the radio studio, located in the former Madonna rectory.
“All our volunteers are stretched,” she said.
Mrs. Harold said she hopes more people come forward to help, even if it’s just with a small donation to keep Catholic radio on the air.
For additional information please visit www.prayersforlife.org or call 781-218-2834. To sign up to be part of the Living Rosary contact: Joan Conroy at 978-343-9278.