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Everyday Evangelists: Northern area rallies for ‘Rosaries for the Troops’

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Thursday, April 1, 2010

By Mary Caffrey Knapke

SIDNEY DEANERY — “These rosaries are tough. Very tough,” said John W. Francis, tugging on a rosary. A typical rosary might have pulled apart, but this is not a delicate set of precious stones held together with tiny metal hooks. The strength of this rosary is a testament to the harsh conditions it must endure, as well as the firm foundation of faith it represents.

This is one of the Rosaries for the Troops, a project initiated last fall by the Knights of Columbus St. Remy Council 3890 in Russia. Beads are strung onto military-grade parachute cord; the beads themselves and the crucifix are made of dark plastic so they will not reflect light or make noise. Over the past five months, what started as a parish project in this community of 600 people in Shelby County has grown to reach untold numbers of servicemen and women on the other side of the globe.

 John W. Francis and Kathy Pinchot
St. Remy parishioners John W. Francis and Kathy Pinchot are pictured here at a recent rosary work party. (Courtesy photo) 

Francis, a grand knight and a parishioner at St. Remy in Russia, heard that Father Carl Subler had mentioned the need for rosaries in an e-mail message. Father Subler, originally from Versailles and ordained for the Diocese of Columbus, is an Army chaplain stationed with the Marines in Afghanistan. Francis proposed that the Knights send some rosaries overseas. The council thought it was a great idea, but no one knew how to go about ordering materials or making and shipping the rosaries. Francis then spoke with Father Subler’s father, who told him about Ranger Rosary, an organization based in Annapolis, Md., that sells supplies and provides information about how to make the specially designed rosaries.

St. Remy parishioner Kathy Pinchot agreed to order the materials and help organize a committee. “John talked to me about it, and I got home and talked to my sister, and she talked to some people she knew. Then I called my mom over in Frenchtown, and within three days, it was just all over the place already. And it’s just getting bigger and bigger,” Pinchot said.
The Knights of Columbus council donated $300 to start the project, with a goal of making 300 rosaries. Now the group is well on its way to fulfilling a new goal of 10,000 rosaries.

“Once people found out what we were doing, the phone rang off the hook,” Pinchot said. The first “work party” included 25 women of the Ladies’ Sodality at Holy Family in Frenchtown. In one evening, they cut enough cord and counted enough beads to make 180 rosaries. “That was our first indication that this was a lot bigger than we thought it was going to be. Then we started getting phone calls from Fort Loramie, Versailles, Osgood, North Star, Greenville, Sidney, McCartyville, Piqua, Fort Recovery — just all over the place. People wanted to get involved in it.”

Francis estimates that parishioners from 10 to 15 parishes are now involved in the project. The rapidly expanding group of volunteers has shipped more than 5,000 rosaries to Afghanistan. Another 700 are ready to be shipped, and parts for another 1,500 are currently being assembled. “Divine intervention is the only explanation for what happened,” Francis said of the surge in volunteer interest.
As the project grew, the group designed tooling that allows volunteers to count beads and reel off and cut cord more efficiently, helping to streamline the process. Local companies have donated equipment and labor to create the tools. “All of a sudden, we went from needing 10 to 15 minutes to get everything counted out, to just a minute,” Francis said. At one recent work party, volunteers counted out 90,000 beads in just two hours.

Items are ordered in bulk, driving the cost of each rosary from about a dollar when the project began to the current cost of just over 40 cents each. Volunteers receive bags of materials and assemble the parts with instruction from Pinchot or another volunteer. An experienced rosary maker can put one together in 15 minutes. Currently, between 100 and 150 people work on assembling the rosaries. Volunteers include church and school groups, as well as individuals who work at home. The rosaries then go through a final inspection, which includes pulling on them to make sure they are knotted correctly and securely. The finished packets include a rosary,  a “How to Pray the Rosary” card and a guide to confession. They are then shipped to Father Subler, who blesses and distributes them.
“You know, this community isn’t that big. We’re not Chicago or New York,” said Ray DeLoye, treasurer of the Knights of Columbus St. Remy Council and a parishioner at Sts. Peter and Paul in Newport. “But what we’re shipping overseas is just amazing.”
The group has received other donations as well. Playtex Products Inc. in Sidney donated 6,000 packages of Wet Ones Moist Wipes, highly valued items for desert troops. Separate funds were raised to ship the products to Afghanistan. A local company also donated hundreds of coloring books, markers, pencil cases, and stickers that soldiers can distribute to Afghan children. The group is currently raising the funds needed to ship these items.
“Whenever I read [Father Subler’s] e-mails, they just really make you appreciate what you have and how brave the troops are that are over there defending our country,” Pinchot said. “This is just a good thing to do for the guys and the women who are over there.”

Mary Caffrey Knapke can be reached at [email protected].

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