GREEN BAY — Jayne Schoen was hesitant when she was first asked to attend a Holy Rosary Society meeting at St. Agnes Church. The question was posed to her on a bus en route to a women’s conference.
“Mary Hyska, who I had never met, asked me,” said Schoen. “This was actually while I was getting back in the church. I was in the process of reconciling with the church. When Mary asked me, I said, ‘I don’t think it’s for me.’ She said, ‘Come and see what it’s like.’ We were in the cry room” for the Holy Rosary Society meeting.
Schoen was asked to come back to the next meeting, but she was still unsure if it was right for her. She decided to give it another try and was hooked.
“I needed the rosary. I needed our Blessed Mother,” said Schoen. “She was guiding me and helping me. I’ve had some losses in my life and was struggling a lot. I was caring for my father and trying to help my siblings with their loss too. It was challenging navigating my father’s illness.”
In April of 2014, the Holy Rosary Society, St. Agnes Chapter, was formed as a local chapter of the international Confraternity of the Most Holy Rosary. The first enrollment ceremony was celebrated on Oct. 13, 2014, at St. Agnes Church. Fr. Patrick Beno, pastor of St. Agnes Parish, serves as the director of the confraternity. Hyska serves as chapter president.
The obligation of membership in the confraternity is to recite 15 decades of the rosary weekly, which Schoen far exceeds.
“I pray it more than once a day,” she said. “Oftentimes I pray it two or three times. I send decades up to Our Lady. I call it a power prayer for little things I need in the moment.”
Schoen was baptized and made her first Communion at St. Agnes Church, but her family left the church during her youth. She stopped by the church on occasion over the years. A Lutheran friend helped Schoen rediscover her faith.
“I would go to her church a lot,” she explained. “I would say that I wanted to go to St. Agnes and she would come with me. We talked a lot about religion and faith. She helped me realize that I needed a connection again.”
Schoen was confirmed by Fr. Beno in 2014, the same year the confraternity was formed. She is not only a member, but makes rosaries for the chapter.
“Mary and I do a lot of that (making rosaries),” she said. “We have classes to teach people. We try to do the knotted rosaries. I bring rosaries to the hospital. I work at Bellin (as nurse case manager). I pray with my patients. We talk about the saints. If they have a certain ailment, I tell them which saint to pray to for it. I will give them rosaries and I give rosaries to the chaplains to give out.”
Schoen is also active in homebound ministry at Mason Manor in Green Bay, assists with the parish festival, is involved in care ministry and participates in 40 Days for Life. Looking back on her faith journey, participation in the 2013 Walk to Mary, a 21-mile walking pilgrimage to the National Shrine of Our Lady of Good Help in Champion, may have planted the seed for her confraternity membership.
“It was really neat seeing people praying the rosary on the walk,” she said. “It didn’t seem like something I could do. I’m (now) walking with Mary and seeing things through her eyes. It truly is Christ’s story through Mary’s eyes.”
The monthly rosary confraternity meetings often feature speakers in addition to reciting a rosary. A social follows the service. Members do not have to attend the meetings, so the homebound are encouraged to enroll. There is no cost to join.
Dennis Vincent, a member of St. Agnes Parish, was one of the first men to join the confraternity. The original Holy Rosary Society was a women’s group. Vincent’s membership grew out of his participation in family prayer night on Mondays at St. Agnes Church and through the influence of his wife, Carol.
“She is my religious spiritual leader and teacher,” he said. “She had been a member. I started leading the rosary at family prayer night. I’ve gone through some health issues, so I’ve shied away from it, but I will get back to it. As I led the rosary, Carol said that I should join the confraternity.”
Vincent was initially concerned with the obligation.
“When you make a vow, even though it says in our brochure that it’s not a sin if you don’t, I still feel a commitment means a lot,” he said. “If you are going to say three rosaries a week, you say three rosaries a week. I had to really dig deep and I did. You don’t have to pray the entire rosary at one time. You can break it up during the week.”
Vincent owns several rosaries, including a small one with one decade and a finger rosary from his father. The rosaries given to new members on the annual enrollment evening, usually in October, are blessed by Bishop David Ricken.
“I love my original rosary (from the confraternity enrollment ceremony),” said Vincent. “It has special meaning.”
Being a part of an international confraternity has its benefits, he added.
“What I feel the most is the fact of knowing that thousands of people are praying the rosary for each other,” he said. “We all benefit from those prayers. You can’t knock praying.
“I have a Bluetooth headset, so when I work outside, I pray the rosary instead of listening to music or I pray the Divine Mercy Chaplet,” he added. “When we go up north, we pray the rosary. When we come home, we pray the rosary in our vehicle.”
Vincent credits membership in the confraternity for expanding his religious reading, including the book “A Year with Mary: Daily Meditations on the Mother of God.” He also prays the Seven Sorrows of Mary.
“When I pray it on family prayer night, I get tears in my eyes,” he said. “I tell all the women there, ‘Put yourself in her place. Think about what she went through to watch her son go through that.’”
Vincent would like to see more men and more young people, especially high school students, join the confraternity.
“Anybody who prays the rosary any amount during the week should be a member of the confraternity,” he said. “You will feel so much better when you do.”
The St. Agnes Chapter, which has more than 460 members, is the largest in the Central Province and the fastest growing chapter in the country. The goal it that 2018 enrollment ceremony in September was to reach the 500-member mark.
“We didn’t quite do it, but we will get there,” said Vincent.
For more information about the Holy Rosary Society, St. Agnes Chapter of the Confraternity of the Most Holy Rosary, contact Mary Hyska at (920) 676-9750 or [email protected].