Venerable Patrick Peyton C.S.C. – “The Rosary Priest” 1909-1992.
In the October Bulletin, Fr. Peyton from Mayo, the Great Rosary Priest, was mentioned. He was born on the 9th Jan 1909 in Attymas, Ballina, Co. Mayo and was one of 9 children. At the age of 19 he and his brother Tom emigrated to the USA to join their sister Nellie in Pennsylvania. His wish from boyhood was to be ordained a priest but his family in Ireland was unable to meet the cost of his education. In the United States he returned to full time education and studied for the priesthood. During his final year in the seminary he was diagnosed as having tuberculosis which was regarded as incurable at that time. He was very weak and was given little hope of recovery by the medical team but he had great faith and prayed to Our Lady for a recovery to full health. His prayers were answered and his health began to improve to the amazement of the medical profession. He was ordained on the 15th June 1941 as a member of the Congregation of the Holy Cross Order.
Fr. Patrick was so grateful to Our Lady for his new found health that with the permission of his superiors he began the Prayer Crusades which took him all over the world preaching the importance of prayer, especially Family Prayer. His biggest gathering of people was in 1985 in the Philippines when he addressed two million people in Manila. He staged hundreds of Radio and T.V shows with many of the famous movie stars of Broadway and Hollywood taking part. He was the founder of “Family Rosary” and “Family Theatre”. His famous slogan was “The family that prays together stays together”.
Fr. Peyton’s Rosary Crusade in Ireland 1954
The older generation during the Marian Year of 1954 can recall Fr. Peyton’s Rosary Crusade throughout the country. On the 25th April 1954 after travelling non-stop from New Zealand, where he had addressed a Rally on the previous Sunday, Fr. Peyton arrived in Tuam, Co. Galway to keep his appointment with Archbishop Walsh who on that day opened the Family Rosary Crusade in the G.A.A Stadium. For more than an hour before the Rally, hundreds of men, women and children walked in procession to the G.A.A stadium reciting the Rosary as they went. The 2nd Rosary Rally was held in Clifden where people from all parts of Connemara gathered. Next came the Knock Rally which coincided with many special pilgrimages to the Shrine there. After many more gatherings in the West of Ireland the Crusade headed North before coming to the South. On Sunday 18th July 1954 he was met by Bishop Cohalan of Waterford who headed a gathering of over 20,000 in Clonmel Sports field, despite counter attractions on the day which included the Cork v Tipperary hurling final. In a special interview after he addressed the Rally, Fr. Peyton said that “he shall take away with him from Ireland the greatest love he ever had for a people”.
Rosary Rally in Sportsfield, Clonmel.
On Sunday 15th August 1954, the 21st and final Rally was held at Our Lady’s Island, Co. Wexford where over 40,000 were in attendance.
Fr. Peyton died on the 3rd June 1992 in Los Angeles, California. In 2001 his cause for Beatification was officially opened and he was declared Venerable by Pope Francis on 18th December 2017.
The Father Patrick Peyton Memorial Centre in Attymas, Ballina, Co. Mayo was officially opened in 1998 as a place of respite, prayer and peace. It is also a popular tourist attraction with good facilities serving the needs of visitors. Here the memory of the big burly man who spoke softly in his native Irish before delivering his message around the world with such humility, simplicity and faith is preserved.
Before he came to Ireland for his tour in 1954 Fr. Peyton met Fr. James Feehan, our former P.P. who spent 18 years in Boherlahan Dualla. Fr. James, who was ordained in 1950, volunteered for the New Zealand Mission while awaiting a vacancy at home in the Archdiocese. He was based in Wellington where he spent 6 years and was involved in directing the Family Rosary Crusade there. Fr. Peyton in a letter dated 17th April 1954 thanked him for his services in doing so. It read as follows:
The picture below shows Fr. Feehan in a white surplice directly behind Fr. Peyton, and was sent to his father, a former Principal in Ballytarsna National School.
It reads “To Thomas with a blessing. J.F.”
Click to expand the images.