Cross ministry promotes family prayer time

By Joyce Duriga | Editor
Wednesday, November 7, 2018

Cross ministry promotes family prayer time

For over five years, Sergio Robles, a parishioner and deacon-candidate at St. Nicholas of Tolentine Parish, 6200 S. Lawndale Ave., has made hand-carved crosses for students in the school and religious education program that are used to promote praying the rosary with their families. Crosses were blessed during a special Mass Oct. 14, 2018. (Karen Callaway/Chicago Catholic)
The hand-made crosses as seen in the shop where Sergio Robles works, Hoffman Furniture Restoration, 4724 W. Rice St., on Oct. 8. (Karen Callaway/Chicago Catholic)
Robles cuts an old pew from his parish to make the crosses. (Karen Callaway/Chicago Catholic)
Robles trims the wood. (Karen Callaway/Chicago Catholic)
Robles assembles the pieces together before putting on final touches. (Karen Callaway/Chicago Catholic)
Robles glues the pieces together and uses a finishing spray before putting on final touches. (Karen Callaway/Chicago Catholic)
(Karen Callaway/Chicago Catholic)
Robles applies finishing spray to a cross. (Karen Callaway/Chicago Catholic)
Sophia Sierra, a second-grader at St. Nicholas of Tolentine School, adjusts the rosary she placed on her cross as her mom, Annette Gutierrez, sits next to her during Mass Oct. 14. (Karen Callaway/Chicago Catholic)
Children brought their crosses to Mass to be blessed. (Karen Callaway/Chicago Catholic)
Rosaries are wrapped around the crosses. Children brought their crosses to Mass to sit with their families. (Karen Callaway/Chicago Catholic)
Massgoers extend their hands in blessing during Mass. (Karen Callaway/Chicago Catholic)
Youth in the choir examine their crosses before the blessing Oct. 14. (Karen Callaway/Chicago Catholic)
Children raise their crosses to be blessed by Father Salvador Den Hallegado during Mass. (Karen Callaway/Chicago Catholic)
Students hold up their crosses and close their eyes as holy water is sprinkled on the crosses. (Karen Callaway/Chicago Catholic)
Families give a "thumbs up" during the homily. (Karen Callaway/Chicago Catholic)
A boy places flowers near the new shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe towards the end of Mass. (Karen Callaway/Chicago Catholic)

For the past six years, St. Nicholas of Tolentine parish and school have created special moments of prayer for families around the rosary and the cross.

Each October, for the month of the rosary, classes in the religious education program and the school receive hand-carved wooden crosses made from old pews from the church, along with rosaries. Each week one student in each class takes a cross and rosary home, promising to pray the rosary together with his or her family.

Students return the crosses and other students take them home for a week. If a class has a large number of students, the class receives two crosses so that each student gets a turn to take one home and pray.

The tradition began when parishioner Sergio Robles and his wife, Edith, the parish’s director of religious education, were trying to come up with ways to teach the children to pray.

Sergio, a professional woodworker, came up with the idea to make the crosses for families to encourage praying the rosary. Soon after he started, the parish removed some pews to make space for a shrine to their patron, St. Nicholas of Tolentine, and Sergio has been using that wood for the crosses.

“We kept thinking of ways we can teach the youth how to pray. With this ministry they learn how to pray the rosary together as a family,” Sergio Robles said.

Each family also receives information about the rosary and how to pray it, both in English and Spanish, when their child brings the cross home. There is a ritual involved in the classrooms, Edith Robles said. Teachers and catechists have short prayer services each week to receive and then send off the crosses.

This year there are 440 students in the school and 480 students in religious education.

The crosses are blessed and distributed during a special Mass for religious education and school families in October. This year’s Mass took place Oct. 14.

“The families look forward to and treasure the opportunity to have the cross at home,” Edith said.

It makes such an impact that some families ask to keep the crosses.

“The moms will say, ‘I could never get my children to pray and now they want to pray,”’ Edith said. “It’s just a joy.”

Families are also encouraged to invite friends and families over during the week to join them in prayer. For those who feel they can’t pray a full rosary, they are encouraged to at least pray one decade each day.

Annette Gutierrez’s daughter Sophia Sierra is a second-grader at the school. She took the cross home following the Oct. 14 Mass.

“We’re a very close family so the first few days my husband, my daughter and I pray the rosary at home,” she said. “Then we include the family members. We all live within a few blocks of each other.”

Gutierrez said her family’s faith has  grown since her daughter Sophia started attending St. Nicholas of Tolentine School. That matters to Gutierrez so much that they’ve kept her there even after moving out of the neighborhood.

“It really brings us close to our religion and brings peace,” she said. “The community is really close.”


  • prayer
  • family life

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