By Joan Kurkowski-Gillen, Catholic News Service
FORT WORTH, Texas | She’s raising seven children while managing a household, marriage and high-energy career in banking. It’s no wonder Kristin Reilly considers prayer — more specifically the rosary — her life raft.
Every morning at 6:45 Central time, the busy mom cuddles a baby or toddler on her lap as she leads more than 400 people in a live recitation of the rosary online at www.instagram.com/manyhailmarysatatime and her Facebook page One Hail Mary at a Time.
Her Instagram account has over 30,000 followers and many log onto the daily-recorded video — available on both sites for 24 hours — to pray with her during a more convenient time. The prayer warriors span the globe and live in places like Zambia, Ireland, Australia, South America and the Philippines.
“It’s just growing and growing,” said Reilly, who started the live presentation last October from her home in Illinois and invites Catholic authors and leaders to join her as guest hosts.
“My goal is to get a hundred million people around the world to pray the rosary,” she said in a phone interview with North Texas Catholic, magazine of the Diocese of Fort Worth.
The Facebook page — One Hail Mary at a Time — explains the rosary, offers thoughtful Marian reflections and encourages family prayer. The 37-year-old also uses the forum to share aspects of her hectic life managing a brood of youngsters age 10 and under. Her youngest is just 4 months old.
A cradle Catholic who witnessed her grandmother and mother pray the rosary “all the time,” Reilly picked up her own beads during a time of personal crisis. The young mother was expecting her third child and moving into a newly purchased home when her husband, Ted, lost his job. To help ease anxiety, her mother, Jean Greenwood, suggested the couple pray the rosary each night as a Lenten devotion.
The evening ritual was awkward at first.
“My husband had never prayed the rosary before and we had never prayed together as a couple,” she admitted. “Two little kids were running around while we looked up information on the mysteries.”
After 40 days, Reilly and her husband noticed they felt less stressed and more bonded as a family. The youngsters warmed up to the idea of praying with Mom and Dad once they realized it delayed bedtime.
“There was so much more peace in our home,” said the St. Mary’s College graduate who earned her master’s in business administration at the University of Notre Dame. “I no longer worried what was going to happen next. I could just surrender those feelings as long as we prayed the rosary every night.”
Seven years and five children later, Reilly continues to share her experience with others. While enjoying city life in Chicago, the family was part of a rosary group that met every Thursday. Kristin observed how prayer intentions quickly built community and friendships between people.
“Before starting, we’d mention what we wanted to pray for and it immediately made it more authentic because you’d know what other people were going through,” she explained.
The business professional remembered those struggles when she launched One Hail Mary at a Time from her suburban home outside Chicago in 2017. A targeted audience was other Catholic moms juggling work schedules and family life because, “that can be a lonely road.”
Young girls, trying to discern a vocation or make other life decisions, also are part of the listening demographic.
“I had a real fear of going live with my faith on the internet last year, but it’s been a blessing and a gift,” continues Reilly, who attended Catholic elementary and high schools in St. Paul, Minnesota. “The biggest surprise is the spiritual community that’s been formed.”
For the past year, rosary participants have supported each other through hospital stays, surgeries and deaths. Some homebound listeners, who suffer with autoimmune illnesses, will make a point of contacting others in the group to pray with them privately.
“I always remember Mother Teresa saying those who are very sick, and can’t leave their house, can do the most good because they can pray for others,” said Reilly, who encourages the outreach. “We have quite a few in our group who do that.”
Why are her social media prayer sites attracting more followers? The soothing mantra of Hail Marys settles the mind and paves the way to peace, the rosary advocate says.
“I think we all go at such a fast pace now,” Reilly continued. “The rosary forces you to slow down.”
Quieting worries and fleeting thoughts to make room for prayer and contemplation is a challenge.
“But by the time you get to the fourth or fifth mystery, you are so centered and focused on the life of Jesus that the Holy Spirit is invited into your soul,” she explained. “For the rest of the day, you are just more in tune with God’s will and the reason why we’re all here.”
For people who want simplicity, contentment and inner peace in their lives, “the rosary is the perfect way to start the day,” Reilly said.
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Kurkowski-Gillen writes for North Texas Catholic, magazine of the Diocese of Fort Worth.