Omahan Kevin Cooper publicly recited the rosary before Mass at St. Leo Catholic Church a while ago, and afterward, a friend and fellow parishioner approached him.
“When I’m dying, I want to hear you saying the rosary,” she said. “I don’t want to hear anybody else. I want to be sure I hear it from you.”
Cooper, a longtime radio announcer and voice-over artist, was a little taken aback. He’s known for his smooth, pleasing voice (as a spokesman for TD Ameritrade and Nebraska Furniture Mart, as a former announcer on KGOR, KEFM and KFAB in Omaha and a current personality on the Rural Radio Network, among other things.)
But he’d never had a request quite like that.
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“She was joking, but it kind of touched me,” he said.
And gave him an idea.
He could create a rosary recording in his home studio, praying with family and friends.
But why stop there? Why not record it at the Mixing Room, where he sometimes does commercials? It’s one of the nicest studios in town. He could make a CD for wide distribution.
The project took off from there, and a couple of months ago, Cooper had a launch party at St. Leo for “The Mysteries of the Rosary.” Now he’s working on setting up YouTube videos and putting it on iTunes or Amazon so it can reach more people.
Catholics use the rosary prayer to venerate Mary and meditate over several mysteries, or stories, about the life of Christ. It consists of separate prayers, such as the Our Father and the Hail Mary, counted off on a string of beads. Many Catholics have a special affinity for the rosary and pray it each day.
Cooper, 59, was raised Catholic, but didn’t grow up reciting the rosary. As an adult, however, he’s grown to love it.
“The more I heard it, the more I appreciated the people who prayed it and memorized it. I thought I should know more about it and pray it more,” he said. “For me to experience it at this time in my life has been a real joy.”
He leads the prayer on the CD. St. Leo’s pastor, the Rev. Craig Loecker, and several friends from the parish say responses, with gentle piano music in the background.
Many people who pray the rosary zip through it fairly quickly — it’s a good thing to recite when you only have 10 minutes or so. Cooper’s version, however, takes its time.
He said he wanted to frame it more as a meditative prayer that people could leisurely listen to by themselves, in their cars or wherever. As he introduces the rosary segments that reflect on events in Christ’s life, he offers a little more explanation than many rosary leaders might provide.
That makes it a great introduction to the rosary for children, said Jennifer Fuller, St. Leo’s director of religious education.
“It will be an excellent resource for our library as kids are learning how to say the rosary,” she said. “He makes it an intentional time for them to spend with God. That’s a beautiful thing.”
Cooper is as proud of the packaging as he is of the content. The CD case is lined with photos of icons and a tapestry that hang in the St. Leo sanctuary.
“It looks like something you could put on a music store shelf,” he said. “Every detail was looked at very carefully.”
Every cent from CD sales goes to St. Leo. He says it’s a gift to the church and hopes it’s a gift with a wider reach. A few edits and additional recording could customize it for any parish or turn it into a more general rosary for the entire archdiocese or a specific intention, such as vocations.
Though he’s frequently a volunteer lector at St. Leo and for “Mass for Shut-Ins” on WOWT-TV on Sunday mornings, he’s thrilled to put his talents to another use. Reaction to the CD has been overwhelmingly positive.
“People say they enjoy hearing my voice. I’m using what God gave me,” Cooper said. “It’s so nice to be able to do something to give back to the parish, the Catholic community and the world.”