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Making a difference bead by bead

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Wednesday, March 4, 2009

By Carmen M. Hubbard

ST. LAWRENCE DEANERY — What began as a hobby has become a labor of love for Tony and Sue Eichhorn.

The couple from Price Hill, married for 41 years, has been making rosaries for area Catholic grade schools for the past two years.

“We started to send to parishes. Then we just started going by the schools,” Tony Eichhorn said.

The Eichhorns learned how to make rosaries from their friend, Norma Nusekabel. As a kind gesture, the couple then offered rosaries to their parish at St. Teresa of Avila in Price Hill.

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Sue and Tony Eichhorn pose with rosaries they have made. (CT/Carmen M. Hubbard)

When the need for rosaries for students arose, the Eichhorns began creating them in the school colors. So far, the couple has made rosaries for 36 schools in Cincinnati, Northern Kentucky, Indiana and Akron.

In addition, the Eichhorns make rosaries for religious and clergy around the world to help spread the Gospel. They made 1,180 rosaries for Poor Clare Sisters in Guatemala; 180 rosaries for the Sisters of Notre Dame in Africa; and 2,100 rosaries for a bishop in the Solomon Islands. To date, they have made and distributed almost 24,000 rosaries total.

The rosaries are distributed at the beginning of the school year to insure each student has one. Thank-you letters and notes of well wishes from students are sent to the Eichhorns for their generosity.

Tony Eichhorn said he spends his weekends — usually 15 hours at a time — making rosaries, knowing some will be the first one a student receives.

“One boy said it was his first rosary he ever had. He said he says his prayers with his grandmother,” Sue Eichhorn said.

At St. Teresa of Avila School, principal Bill Cavanaugh said the rosaries for his staff and students have been a godsend.

“They asked us if we would like them to make rosaries for us,” he said. “In the past, we’ve had to purchase them. They’ve made over 400 rosaries for us. I just call them up when I need more.”

Cavanaugh said his students created a living rosary in which they formed the shape of one and said a prayer inside the church.

“Obviously, the rosary will help increase people’s spirituality. I really think they’re a neat couple to give so much of their time to the parish. I don’t know many people who would give up their time,” Cavanaugh said. The Eichhorns visited the school in January to show a Girl Scout troop how to make a rosary.

Along the countertops near the couple’s kitchen are plastic bottles of unused beads that will be made into rosaries for children. Creating the rosaries has been comforting, Tony Eichhorn said, as they do something for others that is also pleasing to God.

“She gets me into this stuff,” he said of his wife. “This is great. I’m happy with it. The kids like having their school colors, so maybe they’ll hang onto it longer.”

Sue Eichhorn said she prayed during the 54-day rosary novena — 27 days in petition and 27 days in thanksgiving — before making a rosary. At first she thought her request of how to help the church went unanswered. Then she and her husband learned how to make a rosary.

“Prayer is so powerful. I’ve always believed the Catholic religion is the true religion,” she said. “Just praying helps when you’re sad and need something and for thanksgiving.”

Although the Eichhorns make rosaries for grade schools, they said they wouldn’t be opposed to making some for high school students, too. Given that Tony Eichhorn primarily makes the rosaries, he said it would be a big undertaking with just the two of them and so many students.

“It just feels great to give to schools and to the little kids,” he said.

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