Oconto Falls school children take the mystery out of praying the rosary

Students re-enact luminous mysteries of the rosary

OCONTO FALLS — Members of St. Anthony Parish gathered Nov. 12 for a live presentation of the luminous mysteries of the rosary put on by students of the school.

Dressed in costumes and using props, the students from grades three to five performed the mysteries as parishioners reflected and prayed the rosary.

During a presentation Nov. 12 in Oconto Falls, St. Anthony School children portrayed the luminous mysteries of the rosary. The third mystery, the proclamation of the kingdom, above, included a visual presentation of the beatitudes proclaimed by Jesus, with Mother Teresa representing the merciful. (Sam Lucero | The Compass)

The five luminous mysteries portrayed by the students included the baptism of the Lord; the wedding feast at Cana; the proclamation of the kingdom; the transfiguration; and the institution of the Eucharist. The luminous mysteries, added by St. Pope John Paul II in 2002, are one of four sets of mysteries. The others are the joyful, sorrowful and glorious mysteries.

“The kids do such a great job,” said Sue Beschta, second and third grade teacher at St. Anthony School and event organizer. “It’s an emotional experience.”

Over the last few years, St. Anthony has drawn attention for its presentation of the four sets of mysteries that started as part of its weekly religion curriculum.

The tradition of praying a weekly rosary with the students began with Fr. Patrick Beno, now pastor at St. Agnes Parish in Green Bay.

When Fr. Joel Sember became pastor in 2010, he continued the practice until a misunderstanding sparked the idea to have students act out the mysteries.

“I was invited to join a group that told me they were going to do a living rosary,” Fr. Sember said. “I thought we would act out the mysteries, but it turned out everyone linked their arms together and formed an actual ‘living rosary.’”

Keeping his original thought in mind, Fr. Joel brought the idea to Beschta, who volunteered to organize the activity.

“We thought it would be a great way for the kids to learn about and remember the sacred mysteries,” Fr. Sember said.

“When we first started doing it, it was just a small thing with Fr. Joel, with no props and really simple costumes,” Beschta said. “We had no idea it was going to turn into anything bigger.”

After a year of performing the mysteries for Fr. Sember, the event began to grow. Students showed more and more interest in participating, coming up with ideas for props and acting. That’s when school secretary Theresa Blazer suggested opening up the experience to the community.

“When people started coming to watch the kids, the response was really good,” Beschta said. “It’s really kid-driven. Seeing them get so into the performance and truly caring about what this represents makes all of the work worthwhile.”

Then, in February 2012, just a day before Ash Wednesday, the school was left in ruins when a fire tore through the building. After the blaze, the teachers of St. Anthony combed through their soot-covered rooms trying to salvage anything they could.

“One of the things that was untouched by the fire was my folder containing the sorrowful mysteries,” Beschta said. “That was a sign we had to keep doing this.”

Since the fire, St. Anthony School has seen as many as 100 people attend the presentation of the mysteries and has been asked by surrounding parishes to perform at their churches. The mysteries are performed twice a year, with the next re-enactment, the sorrowful mysteries, planned for March 10, 2016, 6:30 p.m.

“It is amazing how this has grown,” Beschta said. “We are proud of the kids and really let them take the lead on much of this.”

“Our little school and been through a lot these past several years.  But I’m proud to say, that with the guidance of Fr. Joel, our struggles have only brought us closer and our faith stronger,” added Blazer.