GREEN − At the outset of the Iraq War in 1991, the Rev. David Durkee asked Maggie Brown if she would organize a group of parishioners who might be willing to make rosaries.
"Other women stepped up to the plate," Brown said.
Fast forward to 30 years later, and the men and women of Queen of Heaven Catholic Church at 1800 Steese Road are still on mission. Since they began, the group has handmade more than 200,000 rosaries that have been distributed throughout Northeast Ohio and around the world.
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The rosary is a system of prayer.
Every Tuesday morning following the 8:30 a.m. Mass, the group gathers in a room that has been designated for assembling rosaries.
Cords that hold rosary beads are cut to 52 inches and knotted. Next, 10 beads are strung in five sections, one bead for each "Hail Mary" prayer. Six crystals are added between each set of beads and serve to remind the holder to pray the "Our Father," or the Lord's Prayer, followed by three beads used to recite the "Glory Be."
Each rosary is completed with crystals and beads denoting two recitations of "Hail, Holy Queen," two more recitations of the "Glory Be," three more "Hail Marys," another "Our Father," and a crucifix on which is recited the Apostles' Creed.
Clear nail polish is applied to keep the cords from fraying. A prayer card and instructions are included with each rosary.
Every completed set of rosaries is prayed over and blessed with holy water.
"Mary asked us to pray the rosary daily," Brown said.
Durkee said praying rosary is an ecumenical prayer because it focuses on the "Glorious Mysteries" of the faith − Christ's birth, death and resurrection.
"Every one is about Jesus' life, and our life as well, because we're called to imitate Jesus' life," he said. "It's about taking 15 to 20 minutes of our day to think about Jesus. Think about the amount of time people spend on social media and mindless TV. The center of the 'Hail Mary' is the name of Jesus."
He added that every portion of the rosary can be found in the New Testament. For example, the "Hail Mary" is based on the Annunciation as recorded in the first chapter of Luke's gospel.
Durkee said praying the rosary helps him to sleep.
"Meditating on Jesus gives you that peace," he said.
Durkee said he also uses the rosary to thank God for his blessings.
The group has assembled and distributed more than 40,000 rosaries for members of the military. Rosaries made for the military are done with dark-colored beads and cords because the colors can't be picked up by night-vision goggles.
The team also has made and donated nearly 1,000 rosaries for students attending the Catholic schools in Summit County, as well as Akron Children's Hospital.
Brown recalled a little patient in Akron Children's who wasn't Catholic, but who wanted for a rosary.
"You never know who it will impact," she said.
Brown said that although the group recently experienced the deaths of a couple of members, they keep going. She credits people such as Roger Judy, who recently lost his wife, JJ, for carrying on in his wife's memory.
"There's something for everybody to do," she said.
Rosaries have been sent to El Salvador, the Republic of Congo, Tanzania, the Philippines, Guadalupe, Medjugorje, and New York City.
They've also been given to the Rhoda Wise Shrine in Canton, former radio host Trapper Jack, and Keith Nester, a former Lutheran clergyman and Catholic convert who during the pandemic created a YouTube channel to pray the rosary daily.
Volunteer Pat Sarber said she's grateful to be able to help make the rosaries.
"The joy of thinking that someone is praying the rosary − even one time," she said. "It's a blessing."
Brown said it's become about more than making rosaries. They've formed deep friendships, and pray the Divine Mercy Chaplet together as well as make intercessions for the sick.
"These are sisters and brothers in Christ," she said. "You know somebody is going to pray with these. That's what so amazing."
Anyone wishing to receive rosaries should contact the Queen of Heaven parish office at 330-896-2345.
Reach Charita at 330-580-8313 or email@example.com. On Twitter: @cgoshayREP
This article originally appeared on The Repository: Queen of Heaven parishioners craft, donate rosaries by the thousands