By ERIKA ANDERSON, Staff Writer | Published December 7, 2006
When Greg Willits and his wife, Jennifer, first began making, praying and giving away all-twine rosaries, they had no idea the international impact they would make.
Three years later, Rosary Army continues to serve people around the world.
On All Saints Day, Nov. 1, Rosary Army kicked off its 2007 fund drive, with a goal to raise $50,000 by Dec. 31. So far, they have raised a little over $22,000 but are hoping that those who believe in Rosary Army’s mission will help them soldier on in 2007.
Rosary Army was officially founded in 2003. The buzz surrounding the organization was slow at first, with a few people requesting rosaries through its Web site, rosaryarmy.com. Soon, however, the word was out, and today, through Willits’ love for the church and the rosary, thousands of free, all-twine knotted rosaries have been distributed, and hundreds of “soldiers” have joined the Army to make rosaries.
Through the Web site, visitors can learn how to pray the rosary and how to make a twine rosary. Through interactive forums, they can also discuss their faith and make prayer requests. The RA soldiers make the rosaries, sometimes in bulks of hundreds, and send them in to Willits who then distributes them to those who request them.
Last year alone Willits said they received 300,000 unique visitors to their Web site. Their popular twice-weekly podcasts, a sort of Internet radio show, are downloaded an average of 3,000 times.
And the Willits do all of this in the confines of their master closet, jokingly referred to as the “cloffice.” Last year, the couple finally built a storage shed in their backyard to make room for the ministry, and hired employees to assist them.
“A little over a year ago it was necessary to finally hire some people to help us manage the thousands of requests we receive in the mail for free rosaries,” Willits said. “They literally do all of their work in our master bedroom closet, right next to our dirty laundry and my smelly shoes. On some days when I get home from my regular job, I have to go down the hall to change clothes because there are people working on the computer in our closet. It’s pretty funny but also makes it very evident that a major change is needed. We need an office outside of the home to more efficiently handle the growing operations of Rosary Army.”
New office space is among the many needs for Rosary Army. In addition, money raised in the fund drive will be used to:
– Continue to make, pray and give away all-twine knotted rosaries and encourage others to do the same.
– Complete work on a brand-new feature-rich Web site that will include free downloadable audio rosaries in multiple languages, more video content, searchable database, improved daily prayer sections and more content than ever before.
– Build a video and production studio within the new office for development of several audio and video initiatives that will be freely available for download and viewable on computers, MP3 players or TVs.
– Produce an initial 36-part production of Catholic mini-TV, a brief look into the week’s top Catholic news in a fun new format.
– Produce an initial 12-part monthly kid-friendly series with a focus on catechesis.
– Produce a pilot episode of the “Animated Adventures of Captain Catechism and Merry Medal” (already in production).
– Continue producing the twice-weekly Rosary Army Catholic podcast.
– Develop a request management database to more efficiently handle thousands of requests for free rosaries.
– Pay for two full-time employees and one part-time employee to manage these efforts and other ongoing Rosary Army initiatives.
The enthusiastic response to podcasting, Willits said, has been a surprise. Rosary Army is a part of the Star Quest Production Network (SQPN.com), another nonprofit organization dedicated to creating Catholic audio, video, and other content to be made available for free on the Internet.
“We started podcasting as an experiment for the people already involved with Rosary Army, but what happened was that thousands of people ended up discovering (us) as a result of the podcasts, which was the complete opposite of what we expected to happen,” Willits said. “It was a total blessing to the apostolate. Podcasting is now the number one way that people find out about the Rosary Army apostolate and we’re convinced that we need to continue focusing on those efforts because of the incredible fruits that we’ve seen.”
The Willitses both help with SQPN initiatives, and Greg has a separate full-time job. They are also the parents of four young boys and manage to juggle all their jobs humbly, though Willits admits it’s not always easy.
“I leave home at six in the morning, and I usually get home 11 or 12 hours later. When I get home from my full-time job, I start working at my other full-time job with Rosary Army,” he said. “Every evening after work, the first thing I do after greeting my family is sit down in our master bedroom cloffice and answer any important e-mails that came in through the day for Rosary Army. We frequently get upwards of 50 e-mails a day from people who have questions or comments about the apostolate.”
Both Greg and Jennifer recently purchased laptop computers, so that they could more efficiently work and tend to their children.
“I can go out and sit in the driveway and do some work while the kids ride their bikes. Jennifer can keep her laptop in the kitchen and handle the budget in between wiping dirty hands and fixing meals,” he said. “Wherever we go in our house—Rosary Army is there. But it would be so nice to be able to focus completely on RA during the day and at night focus 100 percent on our family.”
Though his life is busier than he anticipated when he first dreamed of his rosary apostolate, above all, Willits trusts in his vocation to be a husband, father and Rosary Army commander.
“The thing I’m happiest with is that God has simply given us a task. I know what He wants me to do for Him. For so many years I wondered what God wanted of me. What was my vocation, in addition to being a husband and father? I simply couldn’t figure it out,” he said. “But when I started making, praying and giving away all-twine rosaries, it all became clear. As Rosary Army has grown, I’m just so thankful that God has shown us our calling.”
Rosary Army is a 501c(3) nonprofit organization. All donations are tax deductible. To donate using PayPal, visit www.rosaryarmy.com. Checks addressed to Rosary Army Corp. can be mailed to P.O. Box 82721, Conyers, GA 30013.