GENESEO — In the front of St. Mary’s Church Oct. 3 stood a small group of young ladies, holding a large wooden rosary. Some of the girls were dressed in contemporary teenager clothing, whereas others wore garments one might expect a woman religious from an earlier era to sport. Together, the girls were leading a recitation of the rosary, and were joined in the church by about 140 children and their parents.
After completing the rosary recitation, the woman who had done much to bring about this event stood in front of the congregation to answer questions about an icon of Mary and Jesus she had painted, which was mounted on an easel in front of the church. The woman’s name was Minh Huynh, a Vietnamese native and former Buddhist who converted to Catholicism after coming to Geneseo in the late 1980s.
Children and adults peppered Huynh with questions about the striking icon, including why Jesus was missing a shoe. Huynh replied that it pointed to his future distress over his Passion.
“When you’re afraid, you kind of lose your shoe,” she said.
Another questioner wanted to know why the painting’s background was blue, yellow and orange. Huynh likened her color scheme to that of a sunrise, noting it symbolized that Jesus is the beginning and the end, and eternal as well. Other symbols included stars that represented Mary’s virginity. Huynh added that Mary looked sad because “even though she’s in heaven, she’s always watching over us” — a vigil that can bring tears to the eyes of the mother of Jesus, the painter added.
Huynh entered the Catholic Church through the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults program at St. Mary in spring of 1998, and has used her artistic gifts to promote the faith through such works as the icon displayed at St. Mary’s. Indeed, the icon was the centerpiece of a parish-wide focus on the rosary from Sept. 29-Oct. 5. Events included rosary recitations, as well as a communal praying of Mary’s litany, vespers and exposition and adoration of the Blessed Sacrament.
Cathy Meyer, religious-education coordinator for St. Mary’s, said she was glad the parish’s children had been exposed to teachings about the rosary. She noted that the Oct. 3 public recitation may spark more interest in the venerable prayer.
“It was a new experience for them,” Meyer said. “Maybe it will teach them to relate Mary to the rosary.”
Alicia Levey, 17, one of the girls selected to lead the recitation, said she enjoyed the experience.
“I pray the rosary when I feel it’s necessary,” she said, adding that she often thinks of needy children in the world when meditating on the decades.
Eight-year-old Carlie Tice said Mary is “pretty and she loves God.” She added that she liked praying the rosary, especially because it’s made up of beads.
“It just seems kind of cool when you move your fingers and touch each one,” she said.
Huynh, who maintains a Web site at www.ourladyofnewhelfta.com, has brought her icon this year to other parishes as well, including Church of the Assumption in Fairport, St. Patrick’s in Mount Morris, St. Bridget’s in Rochester and St. Lucy’s in Retsof. She hopes to inspire Catholics to form rosary groups, and wants more Catholics to use the rosary to pray for the world, she said.
Huynh added that she was thoroughly charmed by St. Mary’s children.
“We didn’t know what to expect,” she said. “Once the whole thing was going, they acted like angels.”
She told the children that she had a fond wish for each of them — that they someday are able to wear the same halo that she painted over the head of the mother of Jesus.
“My prayer for you is that everyone of you becomes a saint so that you can wear that halo,” she said.