EASTON, Mass. — Before St. Pope John Paul II filled arenas, Venerable Father Patrick Petyon drew crowds like a rockstar.
“He was not an eloquent speaker, but he was very sincere and compelling,” said Holy Cross Father Willy Raymond, president of Holy Cross Family Ministries and former national director of Family Theater Productions.
Father Raymond welcomed more than a couple hundred visitors to the Sept. 15 grand opening of the Museum of Family Prayer at Holy Cross Family Ministries’ headquarters in Easton, Massachusetts.
The museum, which was dedicated by Bishop Edgar da Cunha of Fall River, Massachusetts, tells the life story of the beloved “Rosary Priest” who preached a simple, well-known message his entire life: The family that prays together stays together.
Father Peyton, who was declared Venerable by Pope Francis in 2017, had a lifelong devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary, whose intercession he credited with saving his life when he contracted tuberculosis as a young man.
“Venerable Father Peyton would tell us today one thing,” Father Raymond said, “Mary is alive, not just at Guadalupe, Lourdes, Knock and Fatima, but here and now in Easton as the mother of the Church and our mother.”
A large statue of Our Lady greets visitors who arrive at the Holy Cross Family Ministries offices, which is a literal stone’s throw from Stonehill College, where Venerable Father Peyton is buried in the Holy Cross Community Cemetery.
Those who enter through the museum’s front door walk into a rotunda containing a large multimedia display of photographs and videos of people of different religious traditions — Catholic, Jewish, Muslim and Buddhist among others — praying from all over the world.
More than a monument to Father Peyton’s fame, the museum reflects his conviction that prayer, specifically the daily family recitation of the Rosary, was the key to peace, love and family unity.
“A World at Prayer is a World at Peace,” reads a sign over the rotunda’s multimedia display.
“The museum welcomes families and individuals to an encounter with God in family prayer,” Father Raymond said.
The museum also contains original photos, mementos, artifacts, audio recordings and videos from the life of Venerable Father Peyton’s, who was a Catholic media pioneer.
Father Peyton founded Family Rosary in 1942 and Family Theater Productions in 1947. He spent more than 51 years of his priesthood serving the spiritual needs of families worldwide until his death in 1992 at age 83.
“Father Peyton has been a serious part of my prayer life for over ten years,” said Allison Gingras, a lay evangelist from the Diocese of Fall River who visited the museum’s grand opening. Gingras recorded a short video testimony for the museum’s exhibit on personal prayer.
“For me, Father Peyton made the Rosary accessible,” Gingras said. “He reminds us that this is a prayer that we all can do. He’s helped me to develop a relationship with the Blessed Mother, who draws us closer to her son, Jesus.”
In the planning stages for well over a year, the Museum of Family Prayer contains relics such as the black cassock that the Holy Cross priest wore when he led his Family Rosary Crusades around the world.
His birth and baptismal certificates grace one wall, next to photographs of his Irish parents who taught and modeled for their children the value of family prayer. A photocopy of the ship manifest from his immigration to the United States from Ireland is posted next to photographs showing him as a seminarian and later as a young priest.
One exhibit contains photos of Venerable Father Peyton standing with Bing Crosby and other stars of Hollywood’s Golden Age, many of whom starred in films produced by Family Theater Productions.
“He really was a marketing genius,” Father Raymond said.
Venerable Father Peyton’s desk from an office he had in Albany, New York, is also preserved, as are his rosary beads, which are on display. Vintage posters advertising his Rosary rallies in New York, Cleveland and California — as well as South America, Asia and Europe — adorn a nearby wall.
During exposition of the Blessed Sacrament, which followed a Eucharistic procession around the grounds of Holy Cross Family Ministries, Father Raymond asked those who were present to pray for the speedy beatification and canonization of Venerable Father Peyton.
Father Raymond added that there are plans to move Venerable Father Peyton’s remains to the grounds near the museum so pilgrims can visit his tomb and pray for his intercession.
“We hope and pray this experience will inspire, foster and promote the spiritual well-being of all families, God’s masterpiece,” Father Raymond said.
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