An outdoor rosary at St. Lawrence Martyr in Hanover, Maryland, helps parishioners during the COVID pandemic.

Outdoor Rosary Feeds Hunger for Prayer during COVID Pandemic

Drone photos of a large-scale rosary on church drive

Sally Rico was looking for a new way to keep parishioners connected with their faith after churches closed as part of the statewide COVID-19 precautions. Her idea, an outdoor, walkable rosary, soon went viral on social media.

Rico, coordinator for religious education at St. Lawrence Martyr parish in Hanover, Md., and Father Victor Scocco, OSST, the pastor, noticed that parishioners would park outside the church to say their prayers, while neighbors, who now were working from home, were using the park side of the 29-acre church property for exercise.

The parish, which is the faith home for nearly 800 families, has a circular driveway that could be blocked off while the building was closed. The idea for a walkable rosary was born.

Logistics of creating the rosary

The challenge was how to make it happen. The rosary could not be permanent since the driveway would need to be used by cars once the church reopened. Working with the Ayoub family, including their five children, Rico found a cornstarch and flour recipe for the paint and together they measured the driveway — 102 feet — and worked out the size of each bead.

On a cold and windy day, the team gathered for more than 10 hours to lay out and paint the rosary, using the feet of 11-year-old Grace to measure out the placement of each bead. They placed signs to help people pray.

“We put the prayers of the rosary close to where they would be prayed for those who don’t know how to pray the rosary. We picked joyful mysteries. We need to be joyful regardless of our situations,” said Rico.

Then Rez LaBoy got a call, asking if he could come over. LaBoy, a recreational drone operator, recently joined the parish with his wife, Karen, after moving to the area. He has been preparing to become Catholic through the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults (RCIA) program at St. Hugh of Grenoble in Greenbelt, his wife’s longtime parish, where they received marriage preparation and have been helping livestream Sunday Masses this spring.

Within minutes of the call, he headed to St. Lawrence with his drone and took photos of the rosary, which the parish posted on social media. That’s when things took off. Calls and emails have poured in from around the country. 

People really have a hunger for Christ

At the parish, Scocco said that “over the last weeks, we have seen people quietly walking and making use of the rosary.”

They have come not only from the parish, but from other parts of Maryland, and a neighbor who is not Catholic asked Rico to walk through the rosary with her. Rico explained that the rosary is a meditation on the life of Christ.

“The beautiful part of this story is that many parishioners were hurt in not being able to come into the church. No one ever thinks about the church having to close its doors,” LaBoy said, noting this was a “creative and unique way” for parishioners to still come to church, although outside.

While the past two months have meant many changes for the parish, Scocco said, “What I’m amazed about is the cohesiveness of the parish. We have managed to stay together.”

“While people are of varying opinions on how and when we should open up, one thing is clear: they have an obvious hunger for the sacraments,” he continued. “People really have a hunger for Christ.”

In speaking about the changes, Fr. Scocco noted that he has acquired more digital skills and said parishioners write daily and have been grateful for online Masses. The parish’s young adult lectio divina group moved their meetings to Zoom and, using the parish directory, coordinated outreach to seniors in the parish. Online Adoration has drawn strong numbers and when Fr. Scocco offered the Sacrament of Reconciliation outdoors, following social distancing guidelines, people came for 2-1/2 hours.

Parishioners also have been directly impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic, with nine families, including the father-in-law of an RCIA participant, affected.

Fr. Scocco expects some online ministry will continue after restrictions are lifted. The parish looks forward to worshipping in-person again, welcoming their eight RCIA participants into full communion, and to celebrating an ordination to the priesthood that will be held in the fall. Brother Josh Warshak, OSST, has been assisting as a transitional deacon at St. Lawrence while preparing to become a priest.

Please note: The Rosary was not designed to be permanent as the driveway will be used for cars again soon. The parish may create another outdoor rosary next May. Photos by Rez LaBoy, recreational drone photographer.

Sally Rico provided the recipe used to create the Rosary: 

Chalk paint

  • 1:1 flour to water
  • 1:1 cornstarch to water 

(1/2 c. of cornstarch + 1/2 c. of water) + (1/2 c. flour + 1/2 c. of water) = just over a cup of solution

Food dye for approximately 1 cup of solution

  • 10 drops blue
  • 2 drops pink
  • 2 drops black