Customized rosary commemorates mother church of Green Bay Diocese

In anticipation of diocese’s 150th jubilee in 2018, rosaries now available

GREEN BAY — Many people cherish special rosaries, such as family heirlooms or rosaries from a specific place or shrine.

Customized rosaries have been designed by Ghirelli Rosaries for St. Francis Xavier Cathedral. They contain elements unique to the mother church of the diocese, such as the church’s crucifixion mural. (Submitted Photo)

Now, people in the Diocese of Green Bay can have a rosary that commemorates the mother church of the diocese: St. Francis Xavier Cathedral.

The customized rosary — believed to be the first commemorative rosary designed in the diocese — was made by the Italian firm, Ghirelli Rosaries. The rosary contains elements unique to the 1881 cathedral, such as the church’s crucifixion mural and choir loft rose window.

The rosary’s design was approved by Cathedral Book and Gifts’ seven-member governing board. Fr. Joseph Dorner, cathedral rector, and Ann Kieltyka, the store’s manager, serve on the board and worked directly with Ghirelli.

Kieltyka had met the Ghirelli’s sales representative at the Catholic Marketing Network’s religious goods trade show held in Schaumburg, Ill., in 2016. She learned that the firm had designed rosaries for several shrines and basilicas, including the Shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe in La Crosse. Since the cathedral was slated for major renovations this year and the diocesan 150th jubilee takes place in 2018, “it just seemed that the pieces came together,” Kieltyka said. (St. Francis Xavier Cathedral is presently closed and will reopen in early December.)

The cathedral rosary comes in two colors — burgundy and gold or blue and silver. The burgundy rosary “just looks like a cathedral rosary,” Kieltyka said. The blue rosary was chosen she added, “because we needed a Marian rosary.”

Both rosaries are identical otherwise and contain Bohemian glass beads — a type of art glass made in the Czech Republic. The medals make the rosary unique to Green Bay and represent items that anyone who has been to the cathedral will recognize:

  • The front of the center medallion depicts the statue of Mary that stands in the upper left in front of the sanctuary.
  • The obverse of the medallion is the 2004 St. Francis Xavier statue located at the cathedral’s museum entrance at the Bishop Wycislo Center.
  • The cathedral’s rose window’s design was used for the “Our Father Beads” spacing the rosary’s decades. The 1954 Liebmann Memorial Rose Window is in the choir loft, over the main entrance. Called the “Mystical Body of Christ,” the mosaic window contains more than 4,500 pieces of glass.
  • The plain cross from the 1903 steeple towers forms the large beads in the rosary’s pendant.
  • The rosary’s crucifix replicates the cathedral’s crucifixion mural — which stands 40 feet high behind the altar. The mural was completed in 1883 by Johann Schmitt, a German immigrant, and contains more than 50 figures.
  • The rosary crucifix even replicates the Latin inscription about the mural’s cross: Iesus Nazarenus Rex Iedaeorum, instead of INRI. (Both mean: Jesus of Nazareth, King of the Jews.) The reverse of the rosary crucifix is engraved: “St. Francis Xavier Cathedral, Green Bay.”

Kieltyka especially likes that the rosary crucifix replicates the wind-blown fabric of the dying Christ’s garment on the cross. When the prototype of the rosary arrived, both she and Fr. Dorner expressed some concern that the cross was too thin and might break with use. Ghirelli then increased the thickness of the metal to increase durability.

A total of four sample rosaries were designed on speculation by Ghirelli — based on photos from the cathedral taken by Kieltyka’s husband, Deacon Conrad Kieltyka. A paper design was made first and the bookstore board offered feedback before the sample rosaries — with their molds for the medals — were made.

The rosaries arrived at the store in May and Kieltyka said they have been “well received.” She has already placed a second order for more blue rosaries. The initial shipment of both rosaries is being sold at a discounted price.

“I felt they needed to be in the hands of parishioners and people who love the cathedral, versus sitting in our store,” Kieltyka explained about the discount.

“It was really a fun project to work on,” she added. “It was a rewarding project. Actually, it was an honor to do this. It was fun to work with Fr. Joe. … He knew just what he was looking for and I knew what we needed to consider. It really brought out the spirit of the cathedral.”

She hopes people will consider the rosaries for gifts, especially for people who have been confirmed at the cathedral or whose family may have historical ties there. And since the cathedral is the mother church of the diocese and the site of the annual televised Christmas Eve Mass, many others may feel special ties to the 136-year-old church.

For more information and prices, see the book store’s website at or call (920) 432-0078.