‘Multiplication of the rosaries’

by Joe Bollig
joe.bollig@theleaven.org

OVERLAND PARK — In any other situation, coming up 14,000 short on something months before a big event would be a problem.

But not for organizers of the Eucharistic Adoration and Global Living Rosary, which will begin at 3 p.m. on May 25 at Kauffman Stadium in Kansas City, Mo.

It was always expected that many people would bring rosaries to the event, but the joint Kansas-Missouri steering committee also wanted to distribute rosaries to those who didn’t have their own.

It took some time for organizers to realize that something they thought they had covered — wasn’t.

“Originally, our steering committee thought we had 14,000 rosaries, but when I went to find out [who had them], no one seemed to know,” said Ken Sittenauer, organizer for the Archdiocese of Kansas City in Kansas. And that’s when something miraculous began to happen. Quite without any plan, appeal or directive, Catholics on both sides of the state line learned of the shortfall and began to make rosaries themselves, organizing into rosary-making groups — “rosary minutemen” of a sort. Before he knew it, Sittenauer was being flooded with bag after bag full of colorful, handmade rosaries. The epicenter of the Kansas effort was the home of Mike and Judy Dowd, members of Queen of the Holy Rosary Church in Overland Park.

The Dowds have been making rosaries for both American and overseas missions since 2003. They get their basic rosary supplies (beads, cords, and crosses) from Our Lady’s Rosary Makers, a lay-led apostolate in Louisville, Ky.

The Dowds’ rosaries have gone to Canada, Ghana, Iraq, India, Uganda, Alaska and even New Orleans — wherever there is a need. When they learned in February that the need was right here at home, they knew what to do.

“A friend on the steering committee mentioned the fact that a lot of rosaries that they thought were committed were no longer available, or they didn’t know where they were,” said Mike. “So we said, ‘Can we make rosaries for this rally?’”

The reply from Sittenauer was an emphatic yes. And so the Dowds began to make rosaries — Mike cutting the cords and stringing the beads, and Judy tying the knots.

They’re a good team — but not 14,000 good. They needed help.

Judy started out by contacting Our Lady’s Rosary Makers and asking if they had any to spare for the rally. The Louisville company made good on their name with a contribution of 1,000 completed rosaries.

The Dowds then hit up folks they knew from eucharistic adoration, and members of their Divine Mercy prayer group for help. Members of the Legion of Mary got involved, too.

A ripple effect soon ensued. The Dowds would invite a friend to the house to make rosaries, who would also bring a friend.

“I had a friend bring over three more people, and we spent a Friday afternoon teaching the four of them to make rosaries,” said Judy. “They’ve made several hundred already!”

One of the folks who has lent a helping hand to the Dowds is Chris Kirk, also a member of Queen of the Holy Rosary Parish.

“We had two workshops, one at Judy’s house and one at my house,” said Chris. “We had 20 people show up at the first [rosary-making] workshop, and about 10 at the second workshop.”

“Judy and I put together packages so people could learn how to make rosaries and take supplies to make 10 or 20 at home,” he continued. ”Almost everyone came back with the rosaries finished and asked to make more. Before you knew it, we had people from North Kansas City and all over.”

Some of the older people they recruited had problems tying the small knots. So Judy recruited children who attend the School of Religion at Queen and hosted a “rosary bee” at their house on April 15. Another was held on May 4 for a much larger group of youngsters and their teachers at the parish.

Soon, individuals were holding “rosary bees” of their own, with the Dowds serving as a clearinghouse for supplies and completed rosaries.

“They take [packages of supplies] home, finish [the rosaries] and bring them back,” said Judy. “I have a little basket at the door, where they just drop them off and pick up their bags, which have supplies to make 10 rosaries.”

Volunteers feel that by making the rosaries, they are doing their small part — both for the Blessed Mother and to help make the event a success.

“I just feel like I’m working for the Blessed Mother,” said Sue Ruffin, also a member of the Queen of the Holy Rosary. “I feel so at ease, at peace, making the rosaries. Knowing that so many people will have a chance to pray the rosary, with these rosaries, gives me goosebumps. I think it’s exciting. I really enjoy this, and it’s an act of love.”

Chris feels the same way.

“I feel like I’m doing something, something good for our Blessed Mother,” she said. “I think she would want me to be there and do this. It makes us feel like we’re part of the rally, that we’re contributing in some way.”

So far the Dowds and those working with them have made 5,000 rosaries. They probably won’t reach 14,000 in time for the event.

But in a larger sense, they will have achieved their goal nonetheless.

The fact that a problem was turned into a blessing — and the way that people have responded to this need and others — is what matters, said Sittenauer.

“Mary sent us the people we needed for the different [needs] we had,” he said. “Everything has totally fallen into place — the rosaries, the medals, the buses, the committee, the Web site — everything. The list goes on. For everything we needed, someone just showed up. It’s totally amazing.”

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