KNEELING in the mud to pray the Rosary as a preschooler in the Philippines was a forerunner of things to come for Teresita Wilson.
She was leading the way then and, at 68, she’s leading still on Brisbane’s bayside.
Teresita vividly recalls the first day her love of the Rosary became public.
She and her family lived across the road from a school and on this particular day she decided to wander across.
“The catechist was in the Grade 1 classroom, and I was not even in Grade 1,” she said.
“The catechist said, ‘Who knows how to pray?’
“And no-one knew so when the catechist started to pray, I kneeled down on the mud and I prayed.
“She said, ‘You’re the only one who prayed, so you can have this rosary’.”
Then the catechist noticed Teresita’s name wasn’t on the Year 1 list so she went across to see her mother.
“She knocked on the door and said, ‘Your daughter is a good girl. I gave her the rosary because she’s the only one in the class who knows how to say the Rosary, and I like how you teach your daughter’.”
Six decades on, Teresita is leading the Our Lady of Fatima Rosary Group that prays every third Sunday in a park at Birkdale, on Brisbane’s bayside.
Teresita said she was prompted to start the group about three years ago after hearing a talk by an archbishop encouraging the formation of prayer groups, and the use of icons of either Jesus or Mary.
“And I thought that is a good idea; that’s why I started (our prayer) group, and it’s really worked – it drew people,” she said.
It’s just an extension of what she’s been doing all her life.
“I learned how to pray the Rosary before I knew how to read and write, because my mother taught me,” Teresita said.
Teresita’s mother and father prayed the Rosary every night with their 13 children.
At the end of a busy day it was time to pray and Teresita’s father would lead.
He would ask each of his children about their day, and Teresita said he would remind them that “God has given you this good life; it’s our God that has given you this”.
“Yes, daughter … it’s God,” he would say.
“Then my father would talk to us one by one, and talk about how God gave it all to us, and then ask us what have we done all day, and we would tell him,” Teresita said.
“We would even tell him when we were naughty.”
When it came time to form her Rosary group at St Anthony’s, Alexandra Hills, it was former parish priest Fr Emmanuel Aguiyi she turned to for support and he guided her through the teething problems.
“He would tell me: ‘… It’s all up to God … Give it up to God’,” she said.
“Sometimes we had 30, and sometimes we had four … sometimes more than 30 …
“Father said, ‘Give it all to God, don’t be so worried’.
“I said, ‘Father, I am afraid of failure’.
“And he said, ‘If you give it to God, then you will not be afraid’.
“So I gave it up to God.”
People come to the Rosary group from various parishes, including Cleveland and Birkdale parish, and not just for prayer.
Prayer is followed by lunch and time to chat and support each other.
Teresita makes sure she’s there early, because there’s more to do than just turn up and pray.
“I go there early to do the set-up,” she said.
“The Filipino way is we have to do flower arrangement – so many flowers with Mother Mary’s statue …”
Teresita said one of the reasons the Rosary was special to her was because “it’s peaceful”.
“It gives me peace,” she said.
And she laughs when she tells why she keeps on praying it – “I keep going because I keep getting problems …”
“Now I know … wisdom comes from the soul when we pray the Rosary,” she said.
She also loves the way faith deepens among the Rosary and Charismatic prayer groups.
“It’s like infectious; it spreads and we become just like … we are solid,” she said.
“We now have to pray because it works.”
Teresita’s heritage, who migrated from the Philippines in 1984, also led to her offering another much appreciated outreach to Filipino Catholics.
“When my mum died in 1997, I started to pray the Rosary for the Dead,” she said.
She could see the benefit of introducing that in Brisbane for other Filipinos.
“I have that prayer for nine consecutive days, and we’ll be together with the mourning people so we can support them, and that is a Filipino tradition,” she said.
Mourners gather and she leads them in the Rosary for the Dead.
“(That’s) all over Brisbane, sometimes Logan, sometimes past Caboolture, where there are Filipinos who cannot go home, because their mum died in the Philippines (for instance) – they have no money to go there – we just mourn with them, we pray with them, because that is the tradition,” Teresita said.
“And then on the ninth day, we ask the priest to have Mass in their house.”
Others have come on board to lead, so Teresita is not kept as busy in this ministry as she once was.
Still, she is always ready to pray the Rosary or offer support where it’s needed.
If friends or acquaintances come to her overburdened with problems, she asks them if they know how to pray the Rosary, and offers them Rosary beads.
“Yes, I always have them in my bag … because out of nowhere someone needs it,” she said.