I have seen an unexpected miracle unfolding before my eyes at St. John Neumann Parish in East Freetown. A couple months ago, someone dropped off to one of our adorers, two shoeboxes full of hand-made Rosaries and Rosary parts, and asked if she knew anyone who would like to put them together. She, in turn, gave them to me and asked if I knew anyone who might like to do that. Since I schedule the Thursday adorers, I put the word out to our adorers and asked if anyone was interested. Two women came forward. In the meantime, I showed them to Father Jack Schrader and told him a few people had come forward. About a dozen were already finished and Father Jack said he could use those, so I gave them to him. First mistake. I should have kept at least one as a model, for none of us knew how to put these pieces together. So, we looked at them and tried, but then decided the best thing would be to order a couple kits that came with instructions, so we could figure out how to do this. The kits came in and then we began to think, who else might be interested in this? One of the woman’s husband had been making Rosaries for years, but they were the chain type and these were the corded type. He also traveled a lot with his business, and would not be home for a couple weeks, so we waited for his input. Then I thought of another woman who started the Rosary before daily Mass and asked her. She was interested. Then I thought of another woman who goes to the Attleboro clinic to pray for an end of abortions, who was always trying to get everyone to say the daily Rosary, so I asked her. She was interested. Then the few of us decided, why not put something in the bulletin to see who else might be interested. A few more came forward. One of those persons not only knew how to make corded Rosaries, but had been making them for years and had run out of places to donate them when her priest contact in Honduras had passed away. One who came forward had lots of contacts with the Catholic schools and thought they might be interested. I spoke with our DRE, who was not only interested in the children receiving Rosaries, but wanted them to learn how to make them themselves. Along the way, our parish had invited Father James Phalan, C.S.C., the National Director for the Family Rosary at Stonehill, to one of our Monday Holy Hours. I spoke with him afterwards and he said he could use as many as we could make; he would find a home for them.
Before we got too much farther, other parish folks were telling us once upon a time people in the parish had made Rosaries for the Armed Forces, but they had to have no metal on them and use dark colors. We began exploring that and discovered that Veteran’s homes appreciated Rosaries as well. We could do that with corded Rosaries. Some of those kits we had ordered were the chain types, so other parishioners began to donate the tools we would need. One woman was interested, but she didn’t want to make the Rosaries, she wanted to purchase those great little blue booklets for children for how to pray the Rosary. Then others wanted to do the same. Our DRE elicited the help of another parishioner to see how complicated these might be in order to teach the children, and they began to experiment.
We started meeting weekly and the woman who had made the corded Rosaries, began teaching that technique. The man who had made the chain Rosaries was home from his job and came to the meetings showing everyone how to make the chain Rosaries. We began shopping at Michaels and JoAnn Fabrics and Amazon to see about best prices for more supplies, but then bumped into Our Lady’s Rosary Makers via Google (https://www.olrm.org/) in Kentucky and found we could purchase more beads, cords, crucifixes and medals there at cost provided we were making them to give away and not selling them. Many were still learning, but once we got the technique down, we discovered we could make a corded Rosary in an hour.
We began amassing several hundred Rosaries — so, batch by batch, we asked Father Jack to bless them and off they went: the first 100 went to the Pastoral Care Office at St. Luke’s Hospital in New Bedford, the next several hundred went to Catholic school elementary students — every single Catholic school student in New Bedford/Acushnet! Along with one of those wonderful blue booklets, Rosaries went to each student at St. James/St. John School, All Saints School, and Holy Family/Holy Name School.
St. Francis Xavier School in Acushnet received 245 last week, just in time for the Consecration. More went to a Confirmation class along with the booklets as well. The Sisters of Divine Mercy (St. Faustina’s order based in Poland) have their motherhouse in Lakeville, the next town over, and they often come to Mass at St. John Neumann. I spoke with Sister Katerina and discovered she would be going to Poland in the near future, and all their convents in Poland were taking in Ukrainian refugees and were over capacity. I asked if they might like some Rosaries and she was very grateful for the offer.
The Rosary is such a powerful prayer. It invites us to meditate on the entire panorama of Salvation history from the joyful to the luminous to the sorrowful to the glorious events in Our Father’s plan for our Salvation. If we immerse ourselves in these mysteries each week, we can only grow closer to Mary’s Son and our Father. Our Lady is always pointing us to her Son. Our world is engulfed in incredible evil right now, but also some incredible love and selflessness is emerging. We have all seen what is going in the Ukraine, but we have also seen an unselfish outpouring of love by perfect strangers in Poland and Moldova and elsewhere in response. There are multiple organizations now trying to funnel in food, clothing, medicine, supplies, etc. for the massive waves of refugees. Man does not always eat by bread alone. Perhaps some of our Rosaries will make their way to some of the refugees and provide them with a little hope and a link to their faith. Even if they do not, however, they have already made their way to hundreds of others who are now using them to pray for our brothers and sisters in harm’s way. That is what the Body of Christ is all about. Two shoeboxes of Rosaries parts multiplied into a new parish ministry providing hundreds of Rosaries for people, and they are still coming in. Even the 12 baskets of leftovers are still multiplying. The hand of God — a miracle for our times — or the Holy Spirit and Our Lady moving in our midst?
One school principal sent a thank you note telling us she had shared them with students and faculty and that they would be praying for world peace:
Dear SJN Rosary Makers,
On behalf of St. James-St. John School, I want to thank you for your generous donation of Rosary beads and booklets. I have shared them with our faculty and students. We will be praying for World Peace.
World peace! Our Lady of Fatima of the Ukraine must be looking down with such kindness on her children. So, if you want to see a miracle, perhaps it is time we all pick up our Rosaries, and if possible, head for the nearest Adoration chapel, fall to our knees and pray to our loving Jesus, our Bread of Life, for the safety of all the persecuted and refugees, and for conversion of Vladimir Putin and all of Russia.
Karen L. Howard teaches theology at Boston College and is a parishioner of St. John Neumann parish in East Freetown.