By REBECCA WILSON, Special To The Bulletin | Published August 19, 2010
One bead, one Hail Mary. Another bead, another Hail Mary. Making and praying the rosary is a simple act, but in the Catholic faith, the prayers of the rosary to the Blessed Mother are profound.
At St. Jude the Apostle School, the simple act of making rosaries and sending them to people who need the guidance of Mary the most has also been profound. The school’s Rosary Guild has been making a strong impact around the world for nine years.
A religion and science teacher for 10 years at St. Jude, Maria Goncalves has always had a strong devotion to the rosary. One evening she helped fifth- and sixth-grade students make rosaries, spending most of the hour particularly teaching a young girl with special needs.
“I taught her the rosary piece by piece,” said Goncalves, “and it was the best experience.”
After the pair finished their last decade, she thought of a beautiful idea.
Goncalves approached Catherine Nicholson, spiritual life director at St. Jude, with the idea of starting a rosary guild for middle school students. Nicholson agreed to fund the project and acquire the materials. The two thought a small number of students would participate in the after-school activity and were happily surprised when the Rosary Guild drew 60 members its first year.
“We had children making rosaries in my homeroom, in the courtyard and out in the hallways,” Goncalves recalled.
“God’s plan for our ministries were larger than we planned for,” Nicholson added with laughter.
Before long Rosary Guild members were self-sufficient in their beading and knotting. Each student has a kit with various colored beads, pre-cut string and crucifixes. After completing a rosary, students place it in a bag with a card signed by the particular student and a quote from St. Francis de Sales: “The greatest method of praying is to pray the rosary.”
Goncalves’ homeroom soon became Rosary Guild headquarters with colorful rosaries taking over. In order to reclaim her space and spread the Blessed Virgin’s prayer, she started giving some rosaries to the parish conference of the St. Vincent de Paul Society. Now every time someone is assisted by St. Vincent de Paul, they also receive a handcrafted rosary. Goncalves believes that “clinging, holding onto our Lady gives us strength to move on.”
Over the last nine years, the Rosary Guild has grown and enhanced its services. The guild made 2,362 rosaries over the course of the 2009-2010 school year, and the rosaries went to over 16 groups. After a whirlwind of natural disasters struck in early 2010, the Rosary Guild produced as many rosaries as they could.
Soon after the Haiti earthquake on Jan. 12, Nicholson received an urgent, late night call from volunteers heading for Haiti, asking if she had any rosaries they could take with them to distribute.
“I do,” she replied. “I have 450 actually.”
The rosaries made their way into the hands and hearts of recovering patients at Hospital Sacre Coeur in Miliot, Haiti. Many expressed how comforting, fortifying and essential the rosaries were.
After tragedy struck Feb. 27, another part of the world beckoned the attention and handiwork of the Rosary Guild. Over 1.5 million Chileans lost their homes in that devastating earthquake. In response, the guild sent 150 rosaries to support the rebuilding effort. Upon entry to their rebuilt houses, families received a free housewarming gift, a rosary.
The Rosary Guild also made and donated rosaries to the Missionaries of the Poor, Missionaries of Charity, St. Brigid Church mission trips to Nicaragua and Jamaica, Our Lady of Perpetual Help Cancer Home, as well as people in Ghana, Tanzania, Uganda and Goncalves’ native Brazil.
The work of the St. Jude the Apostle Rosary Guild has touched the lives of so many people throughout the world.
Goncalves said, “The effort is very small, so simple, takes so little from me, but this spiritual gift makes people so happy.”
And Nicholson always carries the guild’s mission with her.
“We both have strong devotions to the Blessed Mother, and that has lit the fire underneath us,” said the spiritual life director.
To learn more about the Rosary Guild at St. Jude School or how to start one contact Catherine Nicholson at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Rebecca Wilson graduated from Marist School in 2009. She is currently attending the University of Minnesota and is studying journalism and theater arts.