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Everyday Evangelists: Northern catechist uses rosaries to teach faith

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January 29, 2011

By Mary Caffrey Knapke


ST. MARYS DEANERY — Bags of small plastic beads in hues from white to blue to black, are piled on a table with strands of cord. It could be a scene from any crafter’s kitchen. But when these beads are strung, cords knotted and completed with a cross, this simple crafting project takes on a whole new meaning.


For Linda Schoenlein and students in the Marion Catholic Community, making rosaries is a way to learn about and grow in faith. A parishioner at Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary in Cassella, Schoenlein teaches eighth grade religious formation classes. In addition, for an hour before class begins, students, as well as parents and other parishioners, are welcome to join Schoenlein in crafting rosaries for missions and for troops serving overseas.

Everyday Evangelists: rosary
Molly Berning, left, Rose Berning and Jamie Dirksen, parishioners at Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary Parish in Cassella, make rosaries. (Courtesy Photo)

Some years ago, as a first-grade religious formation teacher, Schoenlein had used an oversized rosary — similar to those that some people hang in their homes — to help the younger children learn about the rosary and prayer. When she began teaching eighth grade, she adapted the idea to encourage the older children to make rosaries for others. Schoenlein had never made rosaries herself, and she doesn’t recall exactly how she discovered Our Lady’s Rosary Makers (OLRM), the company that provides supplies.

“Sometimes you have additional help with that from the Holy Spirit,” she explained.

The rosaries are assembled, bead by bead, over time. She typically holds sessions in October, the month of the rosary, and in May, to honor the Blessed Virgin Mary. Anywhere from five to 20 students usually attend. When Schoenlein has collected a hundred of them — which takes about two years — she and the students select a recipient from the OLRM website. Schoenlein has shipped rosaries to various locations, including New York and India. The next batch might be sent to Africa, she said.

Schoenlein said one benefit of the project is that students learn about the places where the rosaries are being sent, which helps emphasize the international nature of the church.

“We have a small community out here, so that makes it harder to remember that the church is global — rather than living in a big city where you have so many nationalities.” This point was further demonstrated when the students received a thank you letter from the priest who had requested the rosaries in India.

Schoenlein has also sent rosaries with traveling parishioners. Carolyn Stucke, assistant director of evangelization and catechesis for the archdiocese, recently returned from Mexico, where she delivered about 50 rosaries to three remote parishes in Oaxaca. She said the Mexican catechists were pleased to receive the rosaries, which would help them teach children in their own parishes.

“It was heartwarming to give them rosaries made by the youth of my parish,” she said.

Likewise, Patrick Minnich took rosaries with him when he was deployed to the Middle East last fall. Minnich is in the Army Reserves and is a teacher at Marion Local High School. Ashley Minnich, his wife, said the soldiers also appreciate the fact that the rosaries are handmade.

Not all the rosaries travel to faraway places. If a student rosary maker asks to keep one, Schoenlein always says yes. “I figure that’s a good thing for them, too, that they want one,” she said. 


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

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