On a sunny, spring Friday morning, members of the St. Bridget Rosary Makers followed their weekly ritual by attending 8:30 a.m. Mass and then head heading to a meeting room in the school building on the St. Bridget of Kildare Parish campus in Parma.
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After settling in with a cup of coffee and some pastry, they opened their craft bags and boxes containing scissors and other rosary-making supplies and got to work. For the next hour or so, they chatted amiably while deftly slipping blue and yellow beads onto pre-cut pieces of cord and knotting the cord after each bead as they made rosaries. Currently, they are making blue and yellow rosaries in the colors of Ukraine’s flag. The idea is to encourage people to pray the rosary for peace in Ukraine and around the world.
During its 15-year existence, group members have made 117,670 rosaries – so far. Even the coronavirus pandemic couldn’t stop their ministry. They continued their work from home until it was safe to meet again in person.
Father Rob Wisniewski, St. Bridget pastor, said the group has made rosaries in a variety of colors over the years. “They used to meet in the rectory basement,” he said. “Sometimes, people would request certain colors for a rosary. We would always have a container of rosaries in the church for anyone who needed one.”
The group has donated rosaries to University Hospitals Parma Medical Center, to travelers and even sent some to the Philippines. There is a box in the church gathering area where anyone who needs a rosary can take one. The group made white rosaries for first communicants and black ones for priests and seminarians.
“Anyone is welcome to join us,” said Mary Lou Hura. She said sometimes people from other parishes come and learn to make rosaries. Some have started rosary groups in their parishes.
“If you can string a bead, you’re welcome to join us,” said Carol Feda.
Nancy Melchioris said the St. Bridget Rosary Makers participate in the parish’s annual ministry fair to make others aware of their mission. The event also helped attract a few more members.
In the group’s early years, Hura said there was a member who used to make chain rosaries. They also have made special rosaries like red and crystal ones for Divine Mercy and green and gold rosaries -- the parish colors.
Melchioris said the late Bob Scheiman, husband of Nancy Scheiman who helped start the rosary group, made a large, crystal rosary for the Blessed Mother statue in the parish gathering area.
“He was a very holy man,” Melchioris said, recalling the many parish organizations and ministries for which he volunteered.
“He never wanted to be recognized,” Father Wisniewski said, noting he helped with parish maintenance, was a lector, choir member, altar server and more. Hura said he also was a talented craftsman and made Tiffany-style lamps, in addition to his rosary-making skills.
Although Nancy Scheiman is no longer able to join the group in person, she continues to support the ministry by working at home to help cut the cords and order beads and other supplies when needed.
As the war in Ukraine continues, the rosary group is focused on making enough blue and yellow rosaries to supply them to anyone who wants one. And since May is a Marian month, they are encouraging people to follow the suggestion of Pope Francis, who is urging people to pray the rosary for the people of Ukraine and for peace.
The rosary group estimates members have made about 300 blue and yellow rosaries in the past few weeks. Feda got the idea to make them because she had quite a few blue beads.
“It was the Holy Spirit trying to communicate with us to do something,” said Father Wisniewski.
As the idea took root, Nancy Scheiman sent an email to the group sharing Father Wisniewski’s suggestion that they suspend making multicolor rosaries and focus on the blue and yellow color scheme.
“By making the rosaries in the color of Ukraine – blue and yellow – Father said maybe we could get more people to pray the rosary and to pray for Ukraine,” said Juliana Stephens.
It takes about 15 minutes to make a rosary, group members said. Each rosary maker gets a small plastic bag with 10 pieces of 57-inch pre-cut cord and 10 plastic crucifixes. The supplier bags the beads by color, and each bag has enough beads for one rosary -- unless multiple colors are used. Rosary makers can personalize the rosaries they make by using a different color for the beads used to pray the Our Father and the Hail Mary. “The beads stand out more that way,” Melchioris said.
Most of the rosary makers were using blue beads for the Hail Mary beads and yellow for the Our Father beads, but some reversed the color scheme.
To make a rosary, they take a special plastic tool that resembles a crochet hook except it has a channel to hold the cord, which is wrapped around the tool three times and then knotted. Ten beads are then strung onto the cord with a knot after each bead. Melchioris said it’s important to tie the knots loose enough to allow the rosary to fold in your pocket but tight enough to keep the knot from untying and the beads from falling off. The process is repeated for each of the five decades. Once the five decades are complete, the two ends of the rosary are wrapped together and the beads next to the crucifix are added, with the crucifix added last. The cord is knotted and then trimmed.
Anyone who wants a rosary is invited to stop at the church, 5620 Hauserman Road, Parma, to pick up one or to contact the parish office, 440-886-4434, 9 a.m. to noon or 1-3 p.m. Monday through Friday. Those interested in learning to make rosaries are invited to attend a meeting, which lasts about an hour.