By Lindsay Steele
The Catholic Messenger
MUSCATINE — As a child growing up in the first half of the 20th century, praying the family rosary was a daily activity for Margie Jennet, her 11 siblings and widowed mother. “It was a must to pray the rosary together as a family … It was key to getting us raised,” said the retired Saints Mary and Mathias Catholic School employee, now 82.
In an effort to pass on the tradition of praying the rosary to youths in the parish, Jennet and about 30 other parishioners from Ss. Mary & Mathias kicked off October’s Month of the Holy Rosary by learning how to make cord-and-bead rosaries Sept. 23. Once completed, they will be given to all parish religious education and Catholic school students.
Observing a declining popularity of the rosary in family worship, Father Bob Cloos, the parish’s parochial vicar, initiated the parish project as a way to expose young families to the power of praying the rosary together — a power he has experienced personally.
“I prayed the rosary every day for guidance, which led me to the priesthood, and praying the rosary every day strengthens me as a priest,” he said. “Hopefully, Ss. Mary & Mathias can shine a light on the importance of the rosary … When we pray the rosary as a family, God gives the family abundant graces which strengthen the family bond.”
Fr. Cloos considered the idea of making rosaries for parish youths after hearing about Father Bill Kneemiller’s Holy Land military rosary project in which rosary materials are purchased, assembled and donated to military personnel. He contacted Fr. Kneemiller, pastor of parishes in Grand Mound, Lost Nation, Oxford Junction and Toronto, to see whether the rosary project was something that could be done for students, too.
Fr. Kneemiller was thrilled by the idea. “It was really encouraging … (Ss. Mary & Mathias) is the first parish that has volunteered to do this as a parish-wide mission.”
The project would involve creation of about 520 rosaries, requiring many hands, and even more supplies. Parishioner Michelle Schaapveld shared Fr. Cloos’ vision, and offered to coordinate the project. “When I look at the generations, and look at our rosary groups and all who participate, everyone has heard of the rosary but so few people really understand the power of it until they get the rosary in their hands and start praying,” Shaapveld said.
She worked to round up volunteer crafters and donors for the $3 rosaries, and quickly discovered the parish’s willingness to help. “Every single person I’ve talked to has been receptive.”
The physical creation of the rosaries proved a bit more challenging. Kay Evans and Tammy Musser from St. Joseph Parish in Hills were on hand to teach the art of rosary making to about 30 Ss. Mary & Mathias parishioners Sept. 23. Fr. Kneemiller previously served as pastor in Hills, and the women regularly make rosaries for the Holy Land rosary project. Evans said making the rosaries is “a task in patience,” but it gets easier with practice.
The rosary crafters will continue to meet weekly at the parish until the students’ rosaries have been completed, though Schaapveld said the parish hopes to continue the project afterward by making more rosaries for Fr. Kneemiller’s Holy Land rosary project. “We want it to be a perpetual, never-ending ‘can’t get enough rosaries out’ project. We’ll begin with the students, but hope this can be self-supporting, with donations and fundraisers throughout the year.”
As for Jennett, she said she won’t let arthritis stop her from helping spread the power of praying the rosary. “I truly believe it is a powerful tool.”