Patrick Peyton: Wikis


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Rev. Fr. Patrick Peyton, CSC
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The family that prays together stays together
Born January 9, 1909
Died June 3, 1992 in Los Angeles, California, United States
Other names The Rosary Priest
Education Notre Dame University
Ordained June 15, 1941
Congregations served Congregation of Holy Cross
Title Servant of God
Parents John Peyton & Mary Gillard
The Memorare, personal prayer of Fr. Peyton - Remember, O most gracious Virgin Mary, that never was it known that anyone who fled to thy protection, implored thy help, or sought thy intercession, was left unaided. Inspired with this confidence, I fly unto thee, O Virgin of virgins, my Mother! To thee do I come; before thee I stand, sinful and sorrowful. O Mother of the Word Incarnate, despise not my petitions, but in thy mercy, hear and answer. Amen.
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Reverend Father Patrick Peyton, CSC About this sound Patrick Peyton (January 9, 1909 – June 3, 1992) is an Irish-born Roman Catholic priest, devout promoter of the works & inspirations of the Blessed Virgin Mary and is the founder of the post World War II prayer movement called, “Family Rosary Crusade.” This campaign was harnessed by the CIA between 1958 and 1965 and funded in order to combat leftist influence in Latin America.

Father Peyton staged massive Rosary rallies in key cities of the world and extensively utilized mass communication, helped by world-recognized celebrities of Hollywood at that time, promoting his ministry of binding families through prayer under the Family Rosary.

Father Peyton made famous the slogans, “The family that prays together stays together,” and “A world at prayer is a world at peace.”


Early life in Ireland

Father Peyton was born as Patrick Joseph Gillard-Peyton in County Mayo, Ireland to John Peyton of Carracastle and to Mary Gillard of Rathreedane, County Bonniconlon.

Father Peyton was sixth to a brood of four girls and five boys living in a small cabin at a 14 acre (5.66 hectares) stony farmland at the foot of Ox Mountain not far off from the Atlantic Ocean.

The Peyton family was a deeply religious Irish Catholic family who lived much of their lives tilling the earth and at a later point in their lives joined the millions who migrated to the United States of America for better opportunities in the new world.

Having elder brothers and sisters who helped in farm chores such as growing potatoes, Peyton had a privilege to go to school. Education in the then English controlled Ireland was not formalized in the minor counties. Patrick was sent to his mother’s relatives in Bonniconlon to study at a school run by Tadhg O’Leary’s in Bofield.


Early Education

As a young man, Patrick was also rebellious and had moments of defying authority resulting in his early dropping out of school. Despite having moments of youthful rebellion, he remained close to his family, respectful of his parents, deeply religious and even as a child, appreciated the importance of his family gathered together at night to pray the Rosary.

By the time Patrick reached the teen years, he was already contemplating a vocation to become a priest. Various religious missionaries starting with the Capuchins to the Redemptorist fathers visited Carracastle in search of young men wanting to pursue the priesthood.

At an early age of nine, his mother would even ask him if at some point in his life if he would like to wear the black cassocks of the priests who regularly visited their county.

His first attempt to pursue his vocation was to write an application to the Capuchin’s monastery outside of Dublin but got no reply. He got fascinated working as missionary in Africa and applied with the Society of African Missionaries but was rejected because he failed qualify in mathematics.

Digging Road Ditches

His curiosity in pursuing a vocation was set aside for a couple of years and instead he would concentrate in helping his family earn a living as their father turned ill and became too sick to work at their farm. The rest of his elder sisters were already immigrants in America and were sending just enough amount of money to help the rest of the family left behind in Ireland.

While working as a road side ditch digger for the Irish Board of Works in 1927, his sisters sent word that Patrick and his older brother Thomas could sail to the United States and join their two elder sisters in Scranton, Pennsylvania.

On May 13, 1928, the Peyton brothers set sail to the new world, leaving behind a teary eyed mother and sick father in County Mayo. Both brothers will never get to see their parents alive after they departed for America.

John and Mary Peyton had only left one particular message to Patrick before he left and that was, “promise to be faithful to Our Lady (Virgin Mary). Be faithful.”

Finding his priestly vocation

Living in America

The brothers arrived at Ellis Island in New York after a ten day trip, traveling by steerage, a young Patrick who was never left his country was awed by the glamor of the well off Irish people who were in the leisure cabins above deck. In the nineteen years of his young life, Patrick was out of Ireland and starting a new life.

The two took the train from New York to Pennsylvania and lived at the home of their already married sister, Nellie who was working as a housekeeper for the state Attorney General of that time.

Before arriving, Patrick’s sister Nellie already spoke to Monsignor Paul Kelley of the St. Stanislaus Cathedral and told of Patrick’s inclination to pursue a priestly vocation. Monsignor Kelley told Nellie to bring her younger brother Patrick to the cathedral as soon as he arrived.

Patrick never got to meet Monsignor Kelley immediately as planned but instead he tried odd jobs in Scranton from selling American flags door-to-door to working at the notorious coal mines of the town.

By June of 1928, with hard luck in finding a real stable job, Patrick finally met Monsignor Kelley and was offered with a job of becoming the cathedral’s sexton. In the words of Patrick at that time, a sexton was just another name for a janitor.

Meeting Holy Cross fathers

Peyton took the job with initial hesitation but his daily presence at the cathedral seeing young priests mingling with the community brought back the calling for a vocation and he finally rushed to Monsignor Kelley to ask for a chance to finally pursue his vocation in the priesthood.

Monsignor Kelley first insisted that Patrick should complete his high school education first in order for him to be admitted to the novitiate. Monsignor Kelley paid for his tuition at the nearby Saint Thomas Catholic High School. Patrick also brought in his older brother Thomas to the cathedral and both pursued their religious vocations while working at the cathedral.

During the spring of 1929, Father Pat Dolan of the Congregation of Holy Cross, a mission founded by Blessed Father Basil Anthony-Marie Moreau of Le Mans, France in 1837 came to the cathedral in Scranton in search of new seminarians.

Patrick always wanted to become a missionary priest and found the vocation at the Congregation of Holy Cross appealing and closer to his calling. After seeking permission from Monsignor Kelley, Patrick and his brother Thomas formally entered the main seminary of the Congregation of Holy Cross in Notre Dame, Indiana in 1932.

Becoming a Holy Cross Father

Patrick Peyton lies in his hospital bed in 1940, recovering from tuberculosis with his sister Nellie and brother Thomas.

After completing their high school studies in a Holy Cross school in Notre Dame, Indiana, Patrick was admitted to the Moreau Seminary within the Notre Dame University in 1932.

Patrick did his best to pursue a degree in Bachelor of Arts, struggled in several subjects but thanks to a great memory passed evenly his college requirements. Patrick excelled well in Philosophy. Patrick credits Father Cornelius Haggerty, CSC, a professor of ethics as the one who continuously provided providential counseling on the young seminarian.

As a novitiate, Patrick was already extremely concerned with the spiritual conditions of families. Reverend Theodore M. Hesburgh, CSC, President Emeritus of Notre Dame University wrote in 1996 that Patrick would spend time at a “dog patch” outside of Notre Dame, at that time during the peak of the Great Depression counseled homeless families. Patrick was curious as to why these families never went to Sunday Mass at the Notre Dame cathedral and was embarrassed to go without any decent church clothes. In due course as a seminarian, Patrick and a group of other seminarians built a small chapel for the homeless in the honor of St. Theresa of the Child Jesus.

As a seminarian, Patrick was attracted to become a Holy Cross father for the order’s focus towards the Holy Family, and the order’s precision towards obedience and conscience. Patrick also appreciated the orders instant availability to any instructions of the Catholic Church and the family like atmosphere within the Congregation.

After the first vows of Patrick, he discovered the challenges facing the Congregation’s mission in Bengal (now Bangladesh). This mission however will not entirely happen as a result of an unexpected event in Patrick’s life that would remind him of his special relationship with the Blessed Mother.

A Life, All for Mary

On October 1938, Patrick’s health took a turn from good to bad when he started coughing blood. For months he ignored his hemorrhages until he could no longer concentrate with his work and on the night of February 6, he was brought to nearby Providence Hospital.

Doctors discovered advance stages of tuberculosis on the upper lobe of Patrick’s right lung. At the start, Patrick was despondent and feared that was at the end of his young life.

His sister Nellie traveled to Notre Dame from Scranton and brought him novenas of the Blessed Mother. Nellie reminded Patrick of the never ending love of the Blessed Mother and how their family lived the life of prayer, especially the Holy Rosary.

Father Cornelius Haggerty, CSC was also influential in this stage of Patrick’s life, encouraging the young seminarian to give it all up to God and seek the hand of the Blessed Mother.

For the entirety of his illness, Patrick prayed hard the Rosary like never before and consecrated his whole life to her, to her cause.

Patrick’s prayers were answered and miraculously, the doctors discovered that the patches in his lungs disappeared.

He immediately packed his bags and left for the Holy Cross College in Washington, DC to complete his theology studies and complete his final vows.

On May of 1941, a special dispensation from the Vatican allowed Patrick to be ordained as a priest but he must complete his studies after being subjected to severe illness. On June 15, Patrick and his brother Thomas were finally ordained at the Basilica of the Sacred Heart in Notre Dame University and officially became members of the Congregation of Holy Cross.

Beginning a Lifelong Crusade

With a war raging in Europe and another starting to boil in the Pacific, Reverend Father Patrick Peyton, CSC was given very light duties after completing his theology studies. His first assignment was to become the chaplain of the Holy Cross Brothers of the Vincentian Institute in Albany, New York.

From Albany, New York, Father Peyton’s mission started as letter of appeals to Bishops, the Catholic lay, even to non-Christians arguing and appealing the importance of the families praying the Family Rosary as the war raged on. Father Peyton won points for his mission to bring families together later on especially after the end of the war.

Utilizing radio, films, outdoor advertising and later television, with the help of celebrities, artists and advertising practitioners, Father Peyton was one of the first pioneers of evangelism using mass media.

He would also pioneer in conducting public rallies to bring families to pledge to pray the Rosary as a unit. These series of Rosary rallies attended by millions would become the most significant event where Father Peyton could be best remembered. According to historian Hugh Wilford, "Peyton himself was deeply conscious of the political dimension of his mission, proudly proclaiming in a 1946 radio broadcast, 'The rosary is the offensive weapon that will destroy Communism—the great evil that seeks to destroy the faith'" (The Mighty Wurlitzer: How the CIA Played America [Cambridge and London: Harvard University Press, 2008], p. 187).

These Rosary rallies, the crusades were duplicated in different dioceses with attendees growing in numbers taking Father Peyton across the globe from Brussels, Belgium to Madrid, Spain across Asia to Manila, Philippines, down south of the equator to New Zealand and Papua New Guinea and into several South American cities like Lima, Peru to Rio de Janeiro in Brazil.

With the help of a non-Catholic advertising practitioner, Father Peyton would popularize the slogan, “The family that prays together stays together.”

The Legacy of Father Peyton

Father Patrick Peyton, CSC in the Philippines, shaking hands with Filipinos who gathered for the Rosary Rally in the Archdiocese of Manila in 1953

With a Cold War threatening anew world peace, Father Peyton was highly instrumental in promoting prayers, winning the hearts of leaders and non-Christians, making visible the messages of the Blessed Virgin Mary, including the recognition from the Vatican from Pope Pius XII to Pope John Paul II. His efforts throughout the tumultuous period of human history in the 20th century, earned him the title, “The Rosary Priest”

Controversy hounded Father Peyton throughout his ministry as some accused him of being a front for American intelligence during his missions in Latin America. It is now known that Father Peyton allowed his Rosary Crusades in Latin America to be funded and, to some extent, directed by the Central Intelligence Agency, which was interested in combatting leftist political movements in Latin America. This connection came about through Father Peyton's connection to J. Peter Grace, the great-grandson of the founder of W.R. Grace and Company, a multinational corporation with interests in transport, sugar, and mining in South America, whom Peyton had met in 1946 on a trans-Atlantic voyage. Grace, who was involved with other CIA front operations as well, wrote to John Moore, the chair of the Business Advisory Council, and the two men approached Allen Dulles. Dulles later met with Grace in the White House office of Vice President Richard Nixon, who expressed enthusiasm. The CIA decided for several years where the crusades would take place, and CIA funds were expended in Chile, Brazil, Venezuela, and Colombia, until Peyton's provincial superior, Richard H. Sullivan, learned of the secret funding from Theodore Hesburgh, the chair of the board of trustees of the University of Notre Dame, in October 1964. It took the Vatican more than a year and a half to oblige Father Peyton to give up his CIA financing (Hugh Wilford, The Mighty Wurlitzer: How the CIA Played America [Cambridge and London: Harvard University Press, 2008], pp. 182-96).

Others accused Father Peyton of living an ostentatious lifestyle, living a life with Hollywood artists who volunteered their efforts in helping promote his mission but Father Peyton maintained that he has never solicited funds for his ministry, and the well-off were more than generous to voluntarily donate a portion of their wealth all in the name of the Blessed Mother.

Father Patrick Peyton, CSC died peacefully holding a Rosary in a very small room on June 3, 1992 in Los Angeles, California. His remains were brought to the Holy Cross cemetery on the grounds of Stonehill College in Easton, Massachusetts.

Before Father Peyton died, he continued to work on what was to be the last major Rosary Rally. On December 8, 1992 at the Rizal Park in Manila, the Philippines, Manila Archbishop Jaime Cardinal Sin, D.D. led the celebrations for the Golden Jubilee Celebration of the Family Rosary Crusade. Then Archbishop of Los Angeles, Roger Cardinal Mahony, DD was sent as Papal Legate on behalf of Pope John Paul II.

Opening the Cause for Sainthood

Then Bishop Sean Patrick O’Malley, then Bishop of the Fall River, Massachusetts announced a formal declaration opening the cause for sainthood of Father Peyton on June 1, 2001, a few days after receiving approval from the Vatican’s Congregation for the Causes of the Saints. The declaration paved the way for the process of determining Father Peyton’s holiness and in the process earning the revered title of Servant of God.”


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