GREEN BAY — Mary Hyska describes herself as a shy, introverted person, but it doesn’t stop her from asking, “Do you pray the rosary?” in a direct manner to those she meets.
Hyska serves as the president of the Holy Rosary Society, St. Agnes Chapter, a local chapter of the international Confraternity of the Most Holy Rosary. Members of the confraternity promise to pray the 15 decades of the joyful, sorrowful and glorious mysteries weekly. By fulfilling this obligation, members include, in their prayers, the intentions of other members from throughout the world.
The local chapter was established on April 25, 2014. The first solemn enrollment ceremony was held in October of last year. The confraternity currently has 137 enrolled members. A second enrollment ceremony will be held on Tuesday, Oct. 13, at St. Agnes Church (see box).
Formation of the Holy Rosary Society is part of Hyska’s spiritual journey. On Divine Mercy Sunday in 2005, she knelt before a large Divine Mercy image and told Jesus that she knew that she was suffering from a serious health condition.
“I surrendered at that time,” she said. “I accepted God’s will for me. Eleven days later, I had brain surgery.”
Physical limitations and chronic pain made life difficult for Hyska. She had served as a teacher for 23 years — 21 at St. Joseph School in Green Bay — and was unable to return to work.
“It was a time in my life where I experienced a lot of spiritual growth,” she said. “The first five years were especially challenging for me, but it was also a time of conversion. My prayer life and faith grew. I turned to our Blessed Mother.”
Hyska began praying the rosary daily and watched programming on EWTN. She also led the rosary service at a local nursing home and attended the first Feminine Genius conference in the diocese, where she was inspired by the speakers.
“I was wondering what God could do with me in my life,” she said. “God did such wonderful things in their lives. They had a vocation. What could God do with me?”
The conference led to Hyska joining a Women of Grace study program, which planted the seed to start a Rosary Altar Society at St. Agnes Parish. Following much prayer, discernment and research, she approached Fr. Patrick Beno, pastor, about forming the society. In October of 2013, the first meeting was held. Approximately 25 people attended. A month later, Fr. Beno suggested that the members of the Rosary Altar Society join a confraternity and that Hyska serve as the president.
“I had no intention of joining a confraternity or being the president,” she said. “There was a greater plan at work. This was what Our Lady wanted. I told Father that I just wanted to put something in the bulletin. I would be there to help, but I didn’t want to be in charge. Father told me, ‘You have the vision, Mary, and you need to be the president.’
“Fr. Patrick has been very supportive of me. I appreciate that he believed in me,” she added. “The only reason I said ‘yes’ is because of my total consecration to Jesus.”
Dominican Fr. Michail Ford, promoter of Confraternity of the Holy Rosary, Central Province Dominicans, USA, served as the resource for establishing the local chapter.
“The Confraternity of the Most Holy Rosary is the largest spiritual bouquet in the world,” he said in a phone interview with The Compass. “It focuses on devotions to Our Lady and growing in our relationship with Christ. It’s been around for over 500 years.”
Fr. Ford explained that the luminous mysteries, added by St. John Paul II in 2002, are recommended for Confraternities of the Holy Rosary, but the original 15 mysteries are all that are required for the granted indulgences. Canon Law requires that names of enrolled members are kept in a ledger. Members may enroll as part of a parish chapter or as individuals. There is no cost to join.
The Holy Rosary Society meets monthly at St. Agnes Church to pray the rosary, for spiritual growth opportunities and social time.
“The meetings are beautiful. We do meditative rosary,” said Judi Schroeder, who coordinates publicity for the group. “We get 40 to 50 people at our meetings and sometimes have a speaker.”
Two Daughters of Mary breakfasts have been held by the society and more will be offered in the future.
“I grew up with the mother-daughter breakfasts,” said Hyska. “Not everyone has a mother or daughter, so we thought that if we had a Daughters of Mary breakfast, you could invite a niece, neighbor, aunt or friend. We promote and honor our Blessed Mother at breakfast with history about the rosary, pictures and brochures. We also pass out holy cards and have rosaries for people if they want them.”
Only women were enrolled last year. Men and women may enroll this year, but the monthly group will continue to be for women.
“I thought that maybe we should become a men’s and women’s group,” said Hyska. “I did a lot of praying and asked Our Lady for guidance. Father said the he would like it to continue as a women’s group.”
Hyska will continue to follow the guidance of the Blessed Mary and invite people to join the confraternity.
“I wouldn’t be here today if this hadn’t happened to me,” she said. “This is the best thing that ever happened to me. It’s been a gift. I couldn’t drive for a couple years. My mother loved the rosary,” she continued.
“I wasn’t faithful with the rosary all those years. It wasn’t until this happened to me that I prayed it daily. I taught first grade and every year I taught the rosary. It was always important to me. … I would like to see women, children, men, families join the confraternity.”