Ministry offers ‘simple recipe for peace’

Tammy Dauenhauer, a worker, picks up a bag of beads for a shipment of rosary-making supplies. Our Lady’s Rosary Makers estimates that its rosary makers have produced 250 million rosaries in its 75-year history. (Record Photo by Olivia Castlen)

Seventy-five years ago, in a small cellar area below a utility room, a Xaverian Brother thanked Our Lady of Fatima as he refurbished the little room into a shrine. That night, he died in his sleep, leaving his secretary to record and pass down this tender moment, captured in the latest newsletter of Our Lady’s Rosary Makers. 

Brother Sylvan Mattingly’s little shrine was located in St. Xavier High School. Although his name may not be well known to local Catholics, his legacy reaches the worldwide church.

Inspired by Our Lady of Fatima’s request to pray the rosary every day, he established a ministry of rosary making — the “Our Lady of Fatima Rosary-Making Club” in 1949. Although his ministry began at the school, it soon spread. The rosaries were sent to missions around the world. 

Seeing the potential of the ministry, Brother Mattingly wrote to “Our Sunday Visitor,” which helped the movement catch on in several other U.S. cities. Within the first 10 years, the ministry was active across the nation, and two million rosaries had been assembled and distributed to mission areas around the world.

Since then, Our Lady’s Rosary Makers estimates that its rosary-makers have produced 250 million rosaries. The ministry is still based in Louisville at the International Rosary Center, 4611 Poplar Level Road, and its history is carefully recalled in its newsletters and on its website.

Reflecting on the 75th anniversary, Mike Ford, who serves as the general manager, said, “It’s remarkable. It’s beyond remarkable. … We’re still here and it’s still important.” 

On site at Our Lady’s Rosary Makers, Jane Senn, a worker, bundles rosary-making tools. In addition to selling rosary supplies at a low cost, the apostolate sells ready-made rosaries. (Record Photo by Olivia Castlen)

Looking to the future of the lay apostolate, Ford said he hopes the gift of the rosary can be rediscovered. 

“It fits everyone” with its simplicity, he said in a recent interview. “If your mother gave you a simple recipe for a peach pie, would you make it?” You might think, “It needs to be much more complicated to taste that good.” 

But, often, the simpler, the better, he said. “The Blessed Mother has asked us to pray the rosary for world peace.” 

It’s a simple recipe for a “peace pie,” he quipped, noting that the ingredients are as simple as childhood prayers — the Our Father and Hail Mary.

If the rosary is the simple “peace pie” recipe that our Mother has handed down to us, then the city of Louisville is its crust, a foundation for the international endeavor. Ford believes, like every good recipe, the rosary should be shared. 

Like the little cellar room, hidden away from the bustle of the high school above, Our Lady’s Rosary Makers’ building on Poplar Level Road can be easily overlooked. Even Ford, who was raised in Louisville by a family that frequently recited the rosary, was unfamiliar with the organization until the 1990s, he said. 

Our Lady’s Rosary Makers is looking for volunteer rosary makers, with a special interest in involvement from archdiocesan schools. They also welcome requests for rosaries for those involved in missions. To become involved, request rosaries or shop, visit www.olrm.org.

Olivia Castlen
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Olivia Castlen
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