by Marc and Julie Anderson
MISSION – All it takes is at least one cellphone.
That’s what Jeanne Wolken, a member of St. Pius X Parish in Mission, said about her prayer group, adding there’s no need for videoconferencing apps, an internet provider or even a computer.
Every morning, Wolken starts a conference call on her cellphone to pray the rosary with six other parishioners (Marie Aguirre, Norma Harrington, Carol Kladuson, Ginny Pilarz, Zita Riedel and Ferne Schultz), ranging in age from 70 to 90.
During the past year, Wolken found herself longing for a sense of communion that comes from being part of a parish family, especially when churches closed throughout the archdiocese.
She wasn’t alone.
“Right after the lockdown started and we stopped going to Mass,” Wolken said, “I would call Ferne to see how she was doing, and she just said, ‘I miss the rosary, and I miss the Mass.’”
That’s when Wolken had an idea.
“I said, ‘I’ve got conference calling on my cellphone,’” she said. “‘I could just call you, and a couple of us could get together and say the rosary.’”
So, over the next few days, the pair prayed the rosary together via telephone. Then, they invited other women to join them.
About a week or so later, Wolken realized her phone’s conference calling feature allowed only five on a call — and they were now at seven participants.
But the group found a workaround.
Riedel has conference calling on her phone, too, which allowed for three people on a call. So, between the two phones, all seven women could be on the call.
While the women knew each other from daily Mass in pre-COVID days, they’ve grown much closer since, and their spiritual lives have deepened as well.
“To me, personally, I feel much more comfortable [now] praying outside of church. It’s easier to pray here in the house. It’s easier to pray in the grocery store. It’s easier to pray in the car. I’ve gotten out of the mindset that prayer has to be in a church,” Wolken said.
The group also acts as an intercessory group for others, lifting up the prayers of other members of the parish and the community at large.
Every day, the group reads aloud the names of others, praying for their specific intentions. Currently, their prayer list includes around 40 names.
All prayer requests remain confidential, Wolken said, adding that it’s been interesting to note that the requests for prayers come from people of all religious backgrounds.
“We’re equal-opportunity prayers,” she said with a laugh. “If anybody asks, we’re glad to add them.”
Besides growing spiritually, “The Rosary Ladies” as they’ve nicknamed themselves, said they have grown in friendship.
“[The rosary group] gets me out of bed in the mornings,” Riedel said. “We get to visit every day. We start the morning off right with the rosary. My friends are on the phone, and if we have any situations that we need to talk to anyone about, we talk to each other. We trust each other implicitly. We try to help each other through trials. It’s just an extended family. It’s a wonderful, wonderful thing.”
Diagnosed with cancer months ago, Aguirre said the rosary group has brought her much comfort.
“These ladies have said a lot of prayers for me,” she said. “They’ve been my support group, and I call them my good friends, ‘The Rosary Ladies.’ They’re still there for me. I’m doing fine now, and I’m glad I had them when I needed them.”
Having a regular prayer group, Pilarz said, has provided her much strength for the past month.
“My husband had a stroke in November, and they’ve been there through my tears,” she said. “And they’ve made me laugh when I didn’t think I could.
“What is wonderful is sometimes I get very emotional, and so I ask if I can just listen. And it’s so beautiful that I can put it on mute, and I can listen on my way to the hospital to see my husband. They’re there, and it’s so comforting. This group has been my rock, and I love them all dearly. I feel so privileged to be a part of this rosary group.”