by John Heuertz
SHAWNEE — How could a modest plastic rosary be such a comfort to the many people who have used it? Perhaps it has something to do with its previous owner — Mother Teresa of Calcutta.
In 1981, a local Catholic businessman found himself praying the rosary with Mother Teresa and her companion Sister, who were seated next to him on a flight to Kansas City. When they finished, Mother Teresa gave him her rosary (see inset photo) and predicted he’d pray it often in the future.
He did. After about a year, the businessman and his wife lent the rosary to a family friend who was seriously ill with cancer. She recovered completely the following year, and knew it was time to pass the rosary along to the next person who needed it.
A few years after that, another woman asked to borrow the rosary to get through a painful divorce. Gradually, the comfort of its presence helped things get better.
She returned the rosary; a few months later, a stranger called to borrow it on behalf on her comatose mother — who responded at once to having it placed in her hand just before her death.
The stranger returned it, and several others used it in their turn. About four years ago, the businessman donated the rosary permanently to Good Shepherd Parish in Shawnee.
“He asked that it be shared with hurting or sick parishioners,” explained pastor Father Francis Hund.
About 20 people have since used the Mother Teresa rosary in a wide variety of prayer settings, some of them communal.
“We can’t say we have miracles from it as an object, but we do have comfort and assurance that God is still with us,” said Good Shepherd’s director of Caring Ministry, Bernadine Asher. “We attribute the power to trust in God.”
Karen Roberts has used the Mother Teresa rosary at prayer vigils held in front of a local abortion clinic.
“Sharing it with people is very special,” believes the Good Shepherd parishioner. “It’s very special to hold on to the rosary while you’re praying.”
Jason and Amy Specht, too, have often used the Mother Teresa rosary for their own special intention — their infant son Grady’s good health.
“He has an inoperable brain tumor called gangliolioma,” explained Amy. “He’s [already] had four surgeries and he’s only two and a half. He’s been through a lot in his young life.”
The parish offered the rosary to the family for its use when it learned about Grady.
“The church has really been there for us,” said Amy. “I felt comforted and more at peace when I held it, like everything was going to be OK.”
Jason and Amy have repeatedly prayed the rosary with it, during which everyone in the Specht family takes turns holding it — including Grady in his crib.
“It was nice to know that we had others with us, too, praying for us,” said Amy. “Knowing so many others have gotten courage and strength from it was a big comfort to us.
For Father Hund, this is the true significance of the Mother Teresa rosary for his parish.
“I think it expresses the support and compassion of the community in a beautiful way for the person who uses it,” he said.
“It’s a powerful reminder of God’s loving providence among us,” he added.