Local Youth & young adult

Beads prepared

Scout project puts rosaries in troops’ hands

by Joe Bollig

Michael Mahr is going to give the troops in Iraq and Afghanistan some highly desired survival items.

They’re easy to deploy and simple to use. They’re lightweight, durable, nonmetallic, portable and silent. They come in nonreflective tactical black.

They are, of course, rosaries.

Mahr, 16, is a Life rank Boy Scout with Troop 247. He hopes to send thousands of rosaries to American military personnel at home and abroad — but especially in Iraq and Afghanistan — as his Eagle Scout project.

Originally, Mahr wanted a project that helped cancer patients, but his plans fizzled out. Then he got some help from his mother, Cathy Mahr, a secretary at Queen of the Holy Rosary Parish in Overland Park.

In September, Cathy Mahr had been approached about setting up rosary collection boxes at the parish by Jenny Pilarz, a member of St. Pius X Parish in Mission. Pilarz was making and collecting rosaries for military personnel.

There was always need for more, and it sounded like a great Eagle project, so she suggested it to her son. Michael Mahr agreed, and he began to lay the groundwork.

Mahr looked first for military contacts and found two. One was Father John Gwudz, a chaplain at Camp Lejeune, a Marine Corps base in North Carolina; the second was the husband of his former Cub Scout leader, who was serving in Afghanistan.

“His chaplain said they would love for rosaries to come over there,” said Mahr.

“My goal is to make 3,000 black rosaries,” said Mahr. “If they’re sent into combat zones, they have to be black so they don’t reflect light.”

Mahr received pledges of $140 from the Queen Saints, a seniors group at the parish, and will probably get a donation from the Knights of Columbus.

Naturally, Mahr won’t make all those black rosaries himself. He plans to organize workdays so volunteers can string beads. He intends to get help from Scouts in his troop, fellow parishioners, students at John Paul II School and the parish School of Religion, and the parish Divine Mercy prayer group. Mike and Judy Dowd, a couple in the parish who know how to make rosaries, will instruct the volunteers.

Color and reflection aren’t a problem for rosaries that will go to non – combat areas, so Mahr plans to set out collection boxes for used rosaries at places including St. Ann Parish in Prairie Village, Queen of the Holy Rosary, and the archdiocesan offices in Kansas City, Kan.

His godparents, Ron and Paula Zishka, have set out a box at Sacred Heart Parish in Tonganoxie. Two of his great-uncles, priests who live in Kansas City, Mo., have also volunteered to help. He is also sending out bulletin notices to various parishes.

Even broken rosaries will be accepted.

“Bob Cunningham, from St. Agnes Parish [in Roeland Park], said he can repair rosaries,” said Mahr.

Whether new or used, each rosary will be placed in a plastic bag with instructions on how to pray the rosary, a card explaining Mahr’s project, and a Web site Mahr has set up to receive requests for more rosaries and Mass intentions.

“It feels good to give rosaries for the soldiers who are fighting for our country,” said Mahr. “Soldiers really want to have something like this.”

If you would like to donate money, rosaries, or your rosary-making skills, contact Mahr at (913) 384-3169, or by e-mail at: rosariesfortroops@gmail. com.


About the author

Joe Bollig

Joe has been with The Leaven since 1993. He has a bachelor’s degree in communications and a master’s degree in journalism. Before entering print journalism he worked in commercial radio. He has worked for the St. Joseph (Mo.) News-Press and Sun Publications in Overland Park. During his journalistic career he has covered beats including police, fire, business, features, general assignment and religion. While at The Leaven he has been a writer, photographer and videographer. He has won or shared several Catholic Press Association awards, as well as Archbishop Edward T. O’Meara awards for mission coverage. He graduated with a certification in catechesis from a two-year distance learning program offered by the Maryvale Institute for Catechesis, Theology, Philosophy and Religious Education at Old Oscott, Great Barr, in Birmingham, England.

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