Rosaries from the St. Scholastica Rosary Makers have found their way to schools, hospitals, nursing homes, homeless ministries, army bases, and foreign missions around the world. The ministry, which began nine years ago, hit a major milestone at the beginning of 2020 with the completion of its 55,000th rosary. Ministry founder Ann Downer says that they don’t always know where the rosaries will go when they are making them, but it is clear that the Blessed Mother has a plan for each of them.
“We make them and trust that they will find a home,” said Downer, parishioner, St. Scholastica Catholic Church in Lecanto. “We have places we always make for but then we also always have extra on hand for unexpected requests.”
Local Catholic schools, Legion of Mary, and the diocesan Propagation of the Faith Office have regularly scheduled deliveries, but over the years news of the ministry has spread through word of mouth. Downer will hear from a parishioner with a relative in religious life in need of rosaries to distribute, or someone who works for Hospice will request rosaries to give to their Catholic patients. The group has made special military rosaries that must be made with black beads in order to go into combat, red rosaries for Confirmation students, and they are currently making the World Peace Rosary promoted by Bishop Fulton Sheen with each decade being a different color to represent a different part of the world.
“It’s a beautiful ministry with very dedicated people,” said Father James Johnson, pastor of St. Scholastica. “To turn that many people to the rosary is fantastic. Prayer is the most important thing we can do, especially in these days. I can’t even imagine all the prayers said on all those rosaries!”
Though Downer has been making rosaries for over two decades, she welcomes anyone to join the ministry, whether they have any experience or not. When someone new comes they are given their own set of supplies and taken under the wing of a more experienced member who will show them how to string the beads and tie the knots. Afterwards, Downer will personally call each person to remind them of the next meeting and pass along any prayer requests. She likens the atmosphere of the monthly gatherings to an old-fashioned sewing circle.
“We sit around and talk about our lives or where the rosaries are going. If someone has a special intention, we pray for that as we make the rosaries,” said Downer.
All are welcome to be part of the Rosary Maker family, even if they can’t make rosaries or attend the meetings! If someone is unable to figure out the knots, they do what they can and someone else will finish it for them. Ann Chytka’s arthritis has become too severe to make rosaries, so she cuts and prepares all of the strings for the ministry. Joanne Pogorek works on the rosaries from home and makes over 300 each month. Even with in-person meetings suspended for the time being due to the coronavirus, “trunk meetings” are held once a month in the parish parking lot, where members can drop off completed rosaries and pick up more supplies from the trunk of Downer’s car.
“I always wanted to do something extra for church, some type of corporal work of mercy,” said Downer, who added that as a registered nurse for 39 years and a mother of five children, her rosary was never far from her hand. “With different physical ailments over the years, I needed something I could do from home. Making rosaries was perfect. It has been the perfect ministry for this year when we had to stay at home. It’s allowed us to still provide a service to the Church. I know the Blessed Mother is happy we’re doing this work”