Local Parishes

Couple makes rosaries to honor Mary

by Todd Habiger

ONAGA — The doctor who delivered Francis Koelzer was so sure the baby would die that he didn’t bother to make out a birth certificate. Francis was what they call a “blue baby” — a baby with a heart defect.

Francis’ mother quickly performed an emergency baptism on her son, fearing he might die before she could get him to a priest.

Eighty-six years later, Francis, a parishioner of St. Vincent de Paul in Onaga, can only laugh at the circumstances surrounding his birth. But he knows who to thank for his long life — the Blessed Mother.

“When I was 18 years old, I promised Mary that I would say the rosary every day for the rest of my life,” he said.

He has kept that promise.

Renaissance man

Although he only had eight years of formal education, Francis possesses a brilliant mind.

His home features a greenhouse he built by hand. Inside, a variety of plants flourish — including some that are about 100 years old.

Do you like wine? Francis makes his own.

This is a man who left school to become a blacksmith and was excellent at it. Health problems led him to leave that profession and take a home course from DeVry Technical Institute, which taught him to repair radios and televisions.

Soon he branched off into repairing washers, dryers, refrigerators and medical equipment.

He quickly became one of the best repairmen around. Whenever there was a difficult problem, Francis was the man his company sent to troubleshoot it. He was so good that he was rewarded with free vacations all over the world. He’s been to Rome, India, Africa, Mexico and Fatima — all on the company’s dime.

Honoring Mary

Francis credits the Blessed Mother for helping him make it to age 18 and beyond.

But it’s not been easy. The list of miracles he attributes to Mary is astonishing.

  • He fainted frequently as a teen due to his heart defect, but doesn’t any longer. His heart healed without surgery.
  • The day before surgery to fix a blood problem in his legs, the symptoms mysteriously disappeared and surgery was canceled.
  • He accidentally backed a vehicle over his 2-year-old son who escaped with nothing but a tire print across his torso.
  • He survived a long fall from a staircase that collapsed beneath him.

“That’s the power of God and the Blessed Mother,” Francis said.

The rosary maker

These days, Francis puts all his efforts into honoring Mary by making rosaries with his wife Helen. Not your run-of-the-mill rosaries but big ones, made to display.

“I feel like making these big rosaries plays a bigger role to the Blessed Mother than little rosaries,” he said. “People will take them home and hang them up and they will see that rosary day after day after day. With a little rosary, they may toss it in a drawer and not see it again for five years.”

The couple has been making large rosaries for about 15 years.

“We figured we have made at least 6,000 rosaries,” Helen said. “We give them away to anyone who wants one.”

For free.

“We’ve been offered money, but we don’t make them for money. We don’t have much money. We have very little, but what do we need with money?” Francis said with a chuckle.

Father Mariadas Sesetti, parochial administrator of St. Vincent de Paul Parish, has been impressed with Francis’ devotion to the Blessed Mother.

“It’s an expression of Francis’ gratitude,” said Father Sesetti. “He thinks, somehow, that Mary’s intervention is very powerful on him.

“His giving rosaries to people is like giving his devotion to Mary to others.”

About the author

Todd Habiger

Todd has been the production manager for The Leaven since 1995. Under his direction The Leaven has won multiple design awards from the Catholic Press Association. Prior to working at The Leaven, Todd was an award-winning writer for The Catholic Key newspaper in Kansas City, Mo. Todd is married to Lori Wood Habiger, a former Leaven employee herself. They have two children — Paige and Connor, and one dog — Joli.

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  • Dear Mr. and Mrs. Koelzer,
    I read the article in the Leaven and would love to purchase a rosary for my granddaughter, Ramona, who has autism. She is nonverbal and is a very loving little girl. I have a shrine to our Blessed Mother with Ramona’s pictures and I pray that someday Ramona will be able to communicate. I would hang the rosary in Ramona’s room so when her mother says her nightly prayers for Ramona, she can look at it and someday say them herself to our loving Blessed Mother. Thank You for your consideration.

    God Bless You
    Gloria Ortega

  • Dear Francis & Helen,
    I read the article in the Leaven about your rosaries! I am 68 & my husband Jobn, is 72. We have been married for 48 years plus! We have received so many Blessings in our years together & are so thankful. We pray daily for our family & friends! We lead our prayers off with thank you’s to our Lord & Blessed Mother. I would love such a rosary to display in our living room! I absolutely be willing to pay you! You should accept payment or donations so you can keep making them ! The demand must be high! By the way, your picture in the Leaven was really cute. Thank you for considering my request.

  • Francis made one for my son and he will be 21 at the end of January and my son has moved to hays Ks and has it hanging in his room. I worked with Francis for several years at Onaga care home. He help me with activities for the residents for church. I learned alot from Francis and his wife. Wanna say thank for everything you taught me Francis and Helen.
    Tina (Cox) Lutz