Published: Friday, November 9, 2001 2:42 a.m. EST


By BRUCE NOLAN, Religion News Service

NEW ORLEANS - Then, as now, the fear of anthrax was in the land. In the
rural Kenner, La., of 1899, with cattle stricken with anthrax dying in the
fields, hard-pressed Sicilian farmers turned to a friend from the old
country, and begged St. Rosalie to intercede on their behalf with God until
the epidemic abated.

 And now with anthrax back -- more distant, but also more sinister -- Kenner
Catholics held three days of prayer this week at Our Lady of Perpetual Help
Parish, asking the same saint to help protect their country from the same
plague that threatened their great-grandparents.

 Parishioners and others requested divine protection from those who have
sent anthrax through the mail to strike unsuspecting recipients in
Washington, Florida and New York.

 "We'll be praying for anyone threatened by this disease, for those who've
already contracted it, and for an end to this threat to our country," said
the Rev. Randy Roux, who suggested the three-day observance to the Rev.
Richard Miles, the pastor at Our Lady of Perpetual Help.

 For centuries St. Rosalie -- or Rosalia -- has been the figure to whom
Sicilians turned for assistance with their prayers to God. A 12th-century
hermit who lived alone in a cave near Palermo, she is the saint they asked
to approach God for them when children fell ill, jobs were lost, crops
failed or hearts were broken.

 But it was an anthrax outbreak more than a century ago in Kenner that first
prompted Sicilian immigrants to turn to her again. A few days ago, the
symmetry of events struck Roux, who knew the Kenner story though he is
posted at St. Patrick's church in New Orleans.

 Anthrax then; anthrax now. Go to St. Rosalie again, he thought.

   Copyright 2000, The News & Observer.