OSHKOSH — On two Friday evenings a month, a small, dedicated and genial group of volunteers gathers at Father Carr’s Place 2B. There is a lot of laughter, chatting and a lot of treats.
But they gather for a serious mission — to create handcrafted rosaries to provide a means and encourage others to pray the rosary.
“We want to recapture the beauty of our faith,” said Fr. Dave Duffeck, who presides at Masses at Father Carr’s. “We’re trying to reignite and bring back the Marian devotion.”
October is traditionally observed as the month of the rosary, and Fr. Duffeck said the group wants “people to get back to praying the rosary. It’s a lost great treasure of the church. We don’t give the rosaries as gifts. We’re here to give teaching tools.”
The rosaries are eagerly received. In the five years Fr. Duffeck has facilitated the effort at Father Carr’s, about 5,000 rosaries have been made and distributed to groups such as March for Life participants, confirmation classes, first Communion classes, Spiritus and other retreat groups.
In return, the rosary group asks only freewill offerings and earnest use of the rosaries.
“Every grace we need we get from Christ,” Fr. Duffeck said. “Christ is the revelation of God. The power of God, the grace of God to live the life of Christ — that’s what the rosary is.”
The rosaries are made using a generations-old pattern: colorful nylon cord that is washable and durable.
“It’s not a pocket rosary,” Fr. Duffeck said. “It’s meant to be used. You can use it walking or jogging.”
A YouTube instructional video is available, and Fr. Duffeck said he supplies all materials needed for volunteers who want to make rosaries on their own at home. He provides all the supplies at his own cost. “I provide the means, they provide the labor and the prayers,” he said.
Lucia Franzen and Joanne Wertz were among the original group of volunteers. They saw a notice in the bulletin at St. Raphael the Archangel Parish and were intrigued.
“I like crafty stuff, and I like to pray the rosary,” Wertz said. “In November, it will be eight years I’ve prayed the rosary every day.”
Franzen said her father was a commercial fisherman on Lake Michigan near Milwaukee. He would bring her mother spools of white cotton twine that he used to make his fishnets. Her mother used the twine to craft rosaries just like the ones being made at Father Carr’s.
“I took one look at them and said they were exactly what my mom used to make,” Franzen said. “She taught me to do it when I was a kid.” Her mother gave the rosaries to servicemen and missions, and they participated in “block rosaries,” where neighbors get together and pray the rosary at someone’s home.
Franzen also loves crafts and was a blue-ribbon winner in knitting, crocheting, quilting and basket-weaving. In February, she had a stroke, so Franzen is not unable to help with the rosaries. She still is an integral part of the group and joins in the lively discussions.
The youngest member of the group is Nadia Hesse, 8, who comes with her mother Julie Gibson. “I like to pray, and I love honoring Mary in the rosary,” said Nadia.
“It is so important to me to instill godliness in my child,” said Julie Gibson. “The perfect way to do that is to come here, go to Mass here and get involved with projects. We get just as much out of it, if not more, than what we give. If God wants you to be here, he will put it on your heart to be here.”
Rose Wendt said coming to the group gives her a little “respite” from serving as a live-in volunteer in the women’s shelter at Father Carr’s — which often includes a lot of noisy children. “I love them, but this gives me a little quiet,” she said with a laugh.
She has arthritis, which makes knotting the cords more difficult for her. Another volunteer developed a little tool from an umbrella spoke that Wendt uses to assist with the knotting.
Ashley Garner got involved when she was a resident in the women’s shelter at Father Carr’s. She noticed the bracelets that represent just one decade of the rosary, and found that a non-intimidating way to learn to pray the rosary.
“The bracelet was nice because it wasn’t overwhelming for me,” she said. She now attends daily Mass at St. Jude the Apostle Church and has been reciting the rosary there for about four years.
“The rosary has been instrumental in my life, praying, contemplating and meditating all about Christ’s life,” Garner said. “I view the rosary as the mystery umbilical cord, Mother Mary providing nourishment to us. It nourishes me a whole bunch.”