Plant in Louisville delivers prayer tools around the world

 

From a low brick building on a commercial stretch of highway in Louisville, Our Lady’s Rosary Makers packages enough beads and other supplies to make 6.5 million rosaries each year.

The lay apostolate, located at 4611 Poplar Level Road, was born of Xaverian Brother Sylvan Mattingly’s desire in 1949 to do something “special” for the Blessed Virgin Mary, said Michael Ford who serves as its general manager.

Seven decades later, the apostolate is still providing millions of rosary-making supplies at a low cost to groups of rosary makers locally, nationally and globally.

It started as a “grassroots” effort by Brother Sylvan, who would make rosaries and teach others to make rosaries to send to missionaries around the world. Brother Sylvan died in 1951, but his mission “took root,” said Ford.

The endeavor, as it continues today, is a local one.

Michael Ford, president and general manager at Our Lady’s Rosary Makers in Louisville, Ky., picks up a bag of rosary-ready beads at the organization’s offices May 6, 2021. The group — a seller of low-cost rosary supplies — shipped out materials to make 5.2 million rosaries in 2020 alone. (CNS photo/Katie Rutter)

Advantage Plastics and Engineering on Bishop Lane molds each of the plastic components of the rosaries — beads, crucifixes and center pieces.

Once the pieces arrive at the Rosary Makers facility, workers spend their days operating machinery that seals the pieces into plastic bags.

Each packet contains enough materials to make 10 rosaries — beads, cording, crucifixes and center pieces.

Finally, workers fulfill orders — packaging and preparing them for shipping.

Ford said he saw an uptick in orders for rosary supplies in the 1990s that didn’t really wane until the pandemic brought everyday life to a halt.

In 2020, the apostolate shipped supplies to make about five million rosaries, said Ford. “People were not able to gather in rosary-making groups”

He believes the rosary-making supplies sent during the pandemic helped individuals find some “purpose and something to occupy their time in a good way” during the months of isolation, he said.

Jane Senn, a volunteer, prepares to assemble an order of rosary-making supplies at Our Lady’s Rosary Makers in Louisville, Ky., May 6 2021. The group was founded in 1949 with the goal of providing Catholics with low-cost rosary supplies so that assembled rosaries could be used in the mission field both locally and abroad. (CNS photo/Katie Rutter)

The apostolate received a letter of thanks from a woman in New Jersey for the supplies she’d received. She was able to drop off supplies to the home of elderly rosary makers who had no connection to the outside world during the state’s 100 days of lockdown, Ford said. The letter noted that the isolation “may have destroyed” the women had they not had rosary-making to keep them connected to their faith.

Over the years, Our Lady’s Rosary Makers has shipped supplies near and far and he and his staff have heard from several individuals about the impact their efforts have had. Ford said he realized the far-reaching impact of Our Lady’s Rosary Makers a few years ago when a woman visiting from the Philippines stopped by to see the facility on Poplar Level Road.

“It blew my mind,” said Ford.

The letters sent from priests, religious sisters and grateful individuals have also shown the impact the apostolate has had around the world.

“We’ve heard from priests in missions who’ve said the rosary has done more than anything else to bring people back to the church. That sticks in my mind,” he said.

Chuck Mitchell, the group’s mission director, said the letters of appreciation he receives, are a highlight of his service. While the apostolate provides rosary-making supplies, Mitchell’s office is dedicated to fulfilling requests for rosaries that are already made. They are needed in missions as far away as Pakistan, India and Africa.

Assembled rosaries, ready to be shipped to international missions, are seen at Our Lady’s Rosary Makers in Louisville, Ky., May 6, 2021. The group provides low-cost rosary supplies, which Catholics across the country purchase, assemble and then send back so the sacramentals can be freely provided to missions around the world. (CNS photo/Katie Rutter)

Rosary makers across the country — elderly individuals in nursing homes and parish groups, for instance — are dedicated to making rosaries for these missions. Mitchell said he sends about 100,000 of these rosaries abroad each year.

In many instances, they are given to children receiving their First Communion or being Confirmed, he noted. Some of the religious sisters from India he’s heard from travel to villages teaching children how to pray the rosary.

People in India are particularly grateful for rosaries right now, because of the toll the pandemic has taken in that country, he said. He’s heard from priests who fear the lockdown in that country may lead to a rise in unemployment and hunger.

“The rosaries mean more to them now,” said Mitchell.

Mitchell’s office also sends materials such as prayer cards and guides to the sacraments in English, Spanish and French along with the rosaries.

The rosary isn’t only what the apostolate produces, it’s also an important part of their lives, added Ford.

From a “faith and family tradition” it was always part of his life, he noted, and it’s taken on an even deeper meaning over the years as he serves at Our Lady’s Rosary Makers.

“It’s a prayer for a child, it’s a prayer for an adult, it’s a prayer for any and all times. … The rosary is something you can pick up — from under your pillow at night to when you’re driving or while you are walking or sitting,” said Ford.

He prays the rosary daily with the 10 employees on staff.

Each morning at around 10 a.m. Ford rings a bell that tells them it’s time to gather to pray the rosary. The facility’s chapel has ceiling to floor windows that provide a view of an outdoor grotto housing a life-size image of the Blessed Mother. In the chapel, the business of the day slows and Ford leads workers in the rosary.

The chapel is also open to the public from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. each day and offers exposition of the Blessed Sacrament on Friday afternoon.

To learn more about Our Lady’s Rosary Makers visit https://www.olrm.org/.

1 Comment

  • Sheila Linson says:

    My hands are never happier than when making Rosaries which will be held and prayed by other hands around the world ! I make two Rosaries each morning while praying along with Fr. Benedict Groeschel’s recitations on YouTube. Our small group of makers at St Anthony’s Church in Tigard, Oregon has distributed 15,000+ to Missionaries in need of them in the U.S and overseas— whose addresses are in OUR LADY’S MESSENGER that is sent out from from the Louisville plant. A beautiful Ministry in honor of Our Lady and her Most Precious Son !

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