Last summer, Alisa Soropia gave out rosaries to local children during a mission trip to Iloilo, Philippines. Photo courtesy of the Association of Rosary Makers)

Rosary making turned into life’s ministry

By 
  • May 11, 2016

TORONTO – It is a collection of beads hung on a chain or a piece of rope, anchored by a cross. The rosary may not look like much but it is one of the most powerful spiritual weapons Catholics can carry.

This is why a small, devoted group’s mission is to bring this weapon to the hands of people across the globe. The Association of Rosary Makers is a network of local groups in Ontario and Alberta that makes rosaries and gives them to anyone who needs one.

Last year, Rosary Makers gave out almost 50,000 rosaries to missions in Canada and around the world. Each rosary was handmade by dedicated volunteers who have taken up this work as their life’s ministry.

“We’re not a charitable (organization). We’re all self-supporting,” said John Biafore, founder and administrator of the association. “We work together as a group and we do God’s work. God bless all our rosary makers because if they didn’t make them, we wouldn’t be able to give them.”

Biafore and Vince Solcz founded the association in 2010 to unite local rosary maker groups and share resources. All the groups met through their main supplier, the John Bead Corporation, a major crafts supplier based in Toronto.

At least twice a year, the rosary makers gather at the Marian Shrine of Gratitude with the rosaries they’ve made to pray and distribute them to local missions. Through the association’s network, rosaries are given to prison apostolates, the Canadian armed forces and taken on mission trips around the world. Each group decides on their own mission projects. 

“Right now, we’re looking for rosaries that we would ship to Peru and Belize,” said Marilynne Feeney, secretary of the Association of Rosary Makers. “We’ve connected with Catholic Missions In Canada and we’re going to send (rosaries) to them. We’d like to send them up north.”

Feeney, based in Waterloo, Ont., runs her own local group called the Canadian Rosary Brigade. She and eight other rosary makers visit local schools where they teach students the origins of the rosary as they learn to make them.

“They’ve picked the colour. They’ve put the beads on. They’ve counted it and it puts it in their heads how exactly to say this,” said Feeney. “They’ve put time and effort in making it for themselves, so hopefully, it’s something that is going to stick in their heads.”

Feeney said their ministry not only helps the students learn about the devotion to the rosary, it also helps the group of retirees do meaningful work.

“I find that for a lot of people, it helps get us through emotional times, painful times. It helps get us through some spiritual needs we have or it just fills that void of what else am I going to do,” said Feeney. “Both ladies in our group who are over 80, it gives them a sense of purpose to get up and make rosaries every day.”

Once the rosaries have been made, Feeney will ship most of them to Biafore at the Marian Shrine of Gratitude. Many people from across the Greater Toronto Area visit the shrine and he meets people who will help spread their ministry worldwide.

Alisa Soropia is a member of Our Mother of Perpetual Help Rosary Makers in Scarborough. Every summer, she picks up a suitcase full of rosaries to bring to the Philippines on a mission with the Legion of Mary.

“I teach catechism in the schools and at the same time, I’m distributing my rosaries and teaching them how to pray the rosary,” said Soropia.

Soropia has been devoted to the rosary and to Our Mother of Perpetual Help since she was a college student. Now, as a retiree and part-time missionary, she is using her time to be in service to her home country.

She said the Association of Rosary Makers has been a big part of her ministry, although it can sometimes be tough. Many of the groups rely on individual donations, but because it is not a charitable organization, the rosary makers often find themselves buying supplies out of their own pocket. 

Still, Soropia said the Blessed Mother is faithful to them and they are never without help. “So far, the Blessed Virgin Mary never fails me,” she said.

(For more information, visit www.mostlovingheartofjesus.com)

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