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The Rosary Ladies: Teaching Students to Make Rosaries in Inner-City Schools

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Imagine placing a rosary into the hands of a child eager to pray, especially a rosary they helped make. That’s exactly what CISE board members Louise Stakelin and Tricia Headley, along with donor Susie Castellini, are doing. Since the fall of 2019, more than 250 scholars at CISE schools received their very own rosary and learned the beauty and meaning behind praying it.

The idea originated during a conversation between Stakelin and Headley, whose children attend The Summit Country Day School and made rosaries prior to their First Communion.

“Tricia brought up that the ladies came to Summit to help with this and we thought it would be wonderful to do for the CISE schools,” Stakelin said. “We both love what CISE does for inner-city children – the safe environment provided in which they can thrive, the great academic background, the values they learn.”

They order supplies online, Castellini assembles all but the last decade ahead of time, then Stakelin and Headley take everything to the classroom and help students complete them. Stakelin provides background information and instruction. “I speak to the children about how we pray the Rosary, and go through the mysteries,” she said. “I also talk to them about apparitions and how they can pray to Mary for intercession. I tell them ‘You have a mother at home, and you have our mother, Mary, in heaven. You can always turn to her.’”

“I try to keep it real for them and tell them it’s a means of prayer you can keep in your pocket or on your bedpost,” she said. “My goal is to bring the stories of the happy and important times in Jesus and Mary’s lives to life for them.”


The project kicked off with Judy Maly’s fifth graders at St. Francis de Sales School and expanded to a number of other CISE schools. The Rosary Ladies’ visit to Maly’s classroom on Sept. 28, was especially significant for the scholars as October approached, the Month of the Holy Rosary.

“In October, we pray a decade of the Rosary each day,” Maly said. ”It was very meaningful for my scholars to pray on the rosary they created. During a class Mass, the rosaries were blessed by Father Mike [Nartker, SM, pastor of St. Francis de Sales]. It is a wonderful experience praying with my scholars. They are reverent and look forward to praying together, commenting on how calming praying together is in the classroom.”

Maly shared comments from her scholars, including Nia, who said, “I felt grateful learning about the rosary. It makes me feel like God is present. I feel safe and welcomed and closer to God.”


Another visit to second graders at Holy Family School was equally special, said teacher Michelle Frey. Seventy-five percent of her scholars are Latino and preparing for First Communion in May. “We have rosaries in our classroom and our kids know the prayers since we’ve practiced them, but it makes understanding the rosary so much richer to make one themselves and hold it [in] their hands. They got to pick the crucifix they wanted to use and held the rosaries so reverently,” she said. “I think as they get ready for First Communion, it makes talking to God more personal for them and helps them better understand the importance of prayer.”

Frey said, “It was so sweet” having Father Len Wenke, pastor at Holy Family, bless their rosaries and show the children his own rosary.

Mabe Rodriguez, outgoing executive director of CISE said she is “deeply touched and overjoyed to see how our CISE scholars have embraced the rosary making project. This is particularly important as 85-percent of CISE scholars are not Catholic, and thus a rosary is probably new in their lives. They learn the love for Mary, our mother, and that praying the rosary helps us get in touch with the deepest desires in our souls for God. We are grateful to Louise, Tricia and Susie and hope this continues at all our CISE schools.”

Enthusiasm for the project has been gratifying for all of them, said Stakelin, and they hope to expand their rosary making at other area schools.

This article appeared in the January 2022 edition of The Catholic Telegraph Magazine. For your complimentary subscription, click here.

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