By Barb Arland-Fye
The Catholic Messenger
Father Bill Kneemiller is in Fort Dix, N.J., preparing for deployment to the Middle East as a military chaplain, but his presence was palpable at a recent Iowa news conference concerning his Holy Land Military Rosary project.
The priest of the Davenport Diocese is thrilled that Lighthouse Catholic Media is partnering with Holy Land Military Rosary to distribute the handmade rosaries to military chaplains worldwide. Joe Alger, Lighthouse’s director of military outreach, and his wife Mary attended the March 11 news conference at Ss. Mary & Mathias Parish in Muscatine to talk about the project.
“It’s a perfect hand and glove scenario for Lighthouse Catholic Media and for Fr. Bill,” Alger said at the news conference. “They felt it was an excellent way to give chaplains an extra Catholic tool in their tool box to minister to the soldiers. What is more important than the rosary?” He noted that the one thing Lighthouse Catholic Media lacked was rosaries. “We at Lighthouse feel it’s a very essential complement to what we’re offering to the chaplains.”
Ghassan Alsahouri of Little Bethlehem Christian Group, representing the Holy Land citizens who produce olive wood crucifixes in Bethlehem for the rosaries, traveled from his home in Maryland to show support for the partnership.
“I have been watching this project grow, and it almost feels like it is my little child. This partnership with Lighthouse Catholic Media will put even more emphasis on the rosary and hopefully this will enlighten more people about its importance, especially since the crucifixes are made in Bethlehem totally out of olive wood,” Alsahouri said. “This project is also important because it will spread more awareness about the Christians and Christianity in the Holy Land. It also will help the Christians financially and it will help to maintain the tradition (going back to the 12th century) of the olive wood carving.”
Also attending the news conference was DeWitt businessman Gary Froeschle representing ServeHAITI, a nonprofit, faith-based organization working in solidarity with the people of Grand-Bois, Haiti, to achieve a better quality of life.
Last year, a total of 300 Haitians were employed part-time to make rosaries for the Holy Land Military Rosary project, Froeschle said. Some of the more than 4,000 rosaries they made were displayed as part of a miniature mountain of rosaries at the news conference. The rosaries are made of simple brown pony beads and military-grade parachute cord. The olive wood crucifixes are attached. Money for the rosary supplies and payments to Haitians comes from generous benefactors of the rosary project.
“As a service veteran who carried a rosary in the military in Vietnam, the rosary project is dear to my heart,” Froeschle told the Muscatine gathering. “As a volunteer for ServeHAITI I am here because of the wonderful tie-in to this project, which is providing people in Haiti the economic opportunity for income to support their families.”
Alsahouri offered to provide ServeHAITI with crosses and corpuses, unassembled, to create additional job opportunities since they will have to assemble and finish the crucifixes.
Logistics still need to be worked out, but Alger and his wife took nearly 1,000 rosaries from the Muscatine display back to Sycamore, Ill., where Lighthouse Catholic Media has its headquarters. Alger, a member of the Patriot Guard Riders, said he’d be happy to bring his motorcycle-riding buddies back to Muscatine to pick up more rosaries in the future. The rosaries will be listed on the Lighthouse Catholic Media website soon.
“This partnership with Lighthouse Catholic Media is an important part of this ‘puzzle’ of how to efficiently send the Holy Land Military Rosary around the world,” Fr. Kneemiller said in an email. His twofold mission is to minister to soldiers in the Middle East and to ensure that a rosary is in every soldier’s pocket – no matter where on earth they’re serving. He’s in the process of setting up a 501(c)(3) tax-exempt nonprofit corporation to oversee Holy Land Military Rosary.
Although several parishes in the Diocese of Davenport make rosaries for the Holy Land Military Rosary project, Fr. Kneemiller said he chose the Muscatine parish for the news conference because “They not only made the rosary, but they had a rosary campaign to promote the family rosary. To promote the family rosary, that’s how you’re going to see miracles happen. This is not a craft project.”
Among the smaller miracles are the links the rosary project creates in reaching out to people in need of rosaries and those in need of economic opportunities to support their families in the Holy Land and Haiti.
“This whole project is blossoming with the lay participation,” Fr. Kneemiller said. “It’s taking off without me!”
(For more information, visit the Holy Land Military Rosary website at www.holylandmilitaryrosary.org and Lighthouse Catholic Media at http://www.lighthousecatholicmedia.org/.)
Rosary project spreads
By Fr. Bill Kneemiller
For The Catholic Messenger
In the last few weeks, I’ve had excellent training for my upcoming mobilization to the Middle East. Here at Ft. Dix (N.J.) Army Base it is combined with the McGuire Air Force Base and the two Catholic communities have had a warm welcome for the Holy Land Military Rosary.
A couple of stories: the Catholic base chaplain, Father Tim Hertin, an Air Force chaplain, has welcomed the project. In recent weeks, he asked for a short talk on the rosary after each weekend Mass. At the Sunday brunch after Mass, I asked some “crafty” ladies if they were interested in making these rosaries. One of them just happened to have a rosary collection back home and she said, “We can make hundreds, maybe thousands.” She wasn’t joking. Right behind her, one of the Knights of Columbus leaders said that the KCs could help fund the project.
The next day I’m on a training site out in the woods. A senior sergeant drives up in his car with a rosary on the rearview mirror. I ask him about it and he says not only is he devoted to the rosary, but he recently started a homeless shelter for men in Philadelphia. I mention that if he is looking for little jobs for the men, I know a perfect rosary-making project with the Holy Land Military Rosary. They could make them for Catholic school children in Philly!
With political and military tensions rising around the world, the Holy Land Military Rosary project is not just a nice idea; it is, in the words of Padre Pio — “A weapon for our times.” I believe that just as we have a choice to pray for someone who injures us, so too, nations can be at prayer to disarm their enemies.
Back in 1917, the message of our Lady of Fatima was very clear: “Prayer and conversion can avert another World War.” The message is simple, but it is not simplistic. We need individuals to pray, and for families to pray the family rosary more than ever. Pray for peace in our hearts, and in our world.