Father Patrick Peyton

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Born: January 9, 1909, Carracastle, County Mayo, Ireland
Died: June 3, 1992, Los Angeles, California, USA

Servant of God Father Patrick Peyton, C.S.C.  Patrick Peyton  (Born: January 9, 1909 – Died: June 3, 1992) also known as The Rosary Priest was an Irish-born Roman Catholic priest and promoter of the Rosary.

Peyton 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 was funded in order to combat leftist influence in Latin America, during the Cold War..

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. Peyton's popularity and charisma was widely known in Latin America and the Philippines, where he promoted the rosary and was notably known for his strong Irish accent.

Father Peyton made the famous slogan:

Early life

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

Father Peyton was the sixth in a family of four girls and five boys living in a small cabin at a 14 acre (5.66 hectares) stony farmland near the foot of Ox Mountains. The Peyton family was a deeply religious Irish Catholic subsistence farming family. Later on, some members of the family migrated to the United States.

Peyton was one of the children having a privilege to go to school. Patrick was sent to his mother's relatives in Bonniconlon to study at a school run by Tadhg O’Leary in Bofield.

As a young man, Patrick was rebellious and had moments of defying authority, resulting in dropping out of school. Despite the youthful rebellion, he remained close to his family, respectful of his parents, and was deeply religious. By his teen years, he was contemplating a vocation to become a priest. Religious recruiters such as the Capuchins and theRedemptorist fathers visited Carracastle in search of young men wanting to pursue the priesthood.

His curiosity about pursuing a vocation was set aside for a couple of years. Instead he would concentrate in helping his family earn a living when their father became too ill and to work the farm. Some of his elder sisters were already in America and were sending remittances to help the family left behind. In 1927, his sisters in America sent word that Patrick and his older brother Thomas could sail to the United States and join them in Scranton, Pennsylvania. On May 13, 1928, the Peyton brothers set sail.

The brothers arrived at Ellis Island in New York after a ten-day trip, traveling by steerage, a young Patrick who had never left his country was awed by the glamor of the well off Irish people who were in the leisure cabins above deck. 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. 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. By June 1928, with hard luck in finding a 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 brought back the calling for a vocation and he finally decided to pursue his vocation in the priesthood. Monsignor Kelley insisted that Patrick should complete his high school education prior admission to the novitiate. He and his older brother Thomas both pursued their religious vocations while working at the cathedral. During the spring of 1929, Father Pat Dolan of the Congregation of Holy Cross, came to the cathedral in Scranton in search of new seminarians. Patrick and his brother Thomas formally entered the main seminary of the Congregation of Holy Cross in Notre Dame, Indiana in 1932.

After completing their high school studies in a Holy Cross school in Notre Dame, Indiana, Patrick was admitted to the Moreau Seminary within the University of Notre Dame in 1932. Patrick pursued a degree in Bachelor of Arts, struggled in several subjects but thanks to a great memory passed college requirements. Patrick excelled in Philosophy. Patrick credits Father Cornelius Haggerty, CSC, a professor of ethics as the one who provided counseling to the young seminarian. 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.

Marian Devotion

Father Patrick Peyton hosted a number of televised shows abroad promoting the Rosary, where an image of Bartolome Esteban Murillo's painting of the Our Lady of the Rosary was always present in the background. Oil on canvas.Museo del Prado, Spain.

On October 1938, Patrick's health took a turn from good to bad when he started coughing blood. For months he ignored hishemorrhages 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 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 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 Virgin Mary. The doctors discovered that the patches in his lungs disappeared.

He immediately packed his bags and left for the Holy Cross College in Washington, D.C. to complete his theology studies and take his final vows. On May 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 the University of Notre Dame as members of the Congregation of Holy Cross.

Lifetime 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 toMadrid, 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."


Father Patrick Peyton shaking hands with Filipinos who gathered for the Rosary Rally in Manila. 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 fromTheodore Hesburgh, the chair of the board of trustees of the University of Notre Dame, in October 1964. It took theVatican more than a year and a half to oblige Father Peyton to give up his CIA financing

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 Cardinal Archbishop Jaime Sin led the celebrations for the Golden Jubilee Celebration of the Family Rosary Crusade. Then the Cardinal Archbishop of Los Angeles, Roger Mahony, was sent as Papal Legate on behalf of Pope John Paul II. Among Filipino Catholics, Father Patrick Peyton is heavily remembered for his Sunday televised shows, where he promoted the Rosary and Marian devotion along with his famous slogan. Peyton also encouraged many businesses to start making and selling large amounts of rosaries for distribution, where he gave freely to impoverished Filipinos living in the slums.


Cardinal Sean Patrick O’Malley 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."

Source: Wikipedia