By Eddie O’Neill
The testimonies from the website say it all.
“Your ministry is right on target in assuring our soldiers, sailors, Marines and airmen that the Rosary is, indeed, for them. I can assure you that the rosaries you send will be distributed directly to our troops here, and I know that they will be the instruments of many blessings in this troubled land.” — Chaplain, Iraq
That ministry is Ranger Rosary, whose workers have sent more than 300,000 rosaries to active duty servicemen and women around the world.
Pat Evans, who heads up the rosary - making operation, told Our Sunday Visitor that it began simply as a school activity at her parish’s elementary and high school of St. Mary’s in Annapolis , Md. It has since grown to include 26 rosary - making groups and countless individuals from around the nation who are putting beads and crucifixes together for the troops.
“From the start we have had a very dedicated group of volunteers who have come every single week,” Evans said in regards to the rosary making group at her home parish. “They come in wheelchairs and walkers and one lady even has an oxygen tank. They love to be together and they love what they are doing.”
Julie Walton, who is a member of the Church of the Resurrection in Ellicott City, Md., coordinates Ranger Rosary’s rosary requests. She calls it a match making job. She places the demand for rosaries from the military chaplains with the appropriate rosary - making group.
According to her, there is no shortage of demand for the rosaries. Popularly known as combat rosaries, chaplains have a variety of colors to choose from. All hand made with durable parachute cord, the group’s most popular selection is its black and drab olive green one. There is a desert camo rosary with a tan cord and brown beads , as well as a blue and gray one to represent the Navy and Air Force and a generic black on gray cord rosary.
Included in each rosary packet is a pamphlet on how to pray the R osary, as well as scapulars, Divine Mercy booklets and St. Michael the Archangel medals with prayer cards.
Evans say that these packets have been requested by all of the military academies, along with the Coast Guard and the Merchant Marines.
“They all want these rosaries before their men leave the academy and go into service,” Evans told OSV.
“That shows you too what a reputation Our Lady has,” she added. “The soldiers want it because it has been found that when they go out with the rosary — like on a convoy — they come home safe. That is the reputation it has.”
Father John Perez, a native of Puerto Rico who is stationed as an Army chaplain at Fort Knox in Kentucky, knows well the work being done from the folks at Ranger Rosary. He has 17 years in the military system — 14 of those years have been serving the troops both in the United States and abroad as a Catholic chaplain.
He told OSV that the soldiers are always excited about getting a Ranger Rosary.
“They do appreciate the fact that they are receiving something from the faith, and they like the fact that they will last for a long time,” Father Perez told OSV. “Because it represents their faith, it’s like they are taking something of their home with them.”
Evans is full of stories about these combat rosaries in action. One of her favorites is about a group of troops who were living in a compound in a dangerous area. Each soldier had to do guard duty at night , and when their shift was over, they would pass their rosary on to the next soldier coming on duty .
Both Evans and Walton would agree that these prayer beads not only give an important and necessary faith connection between the troops and their Church, but a sense of comfort and protection.
“It means something to them on a very elemental level. The rosaries give them hope,” Walton said. “It gives them a reassurance that Our Lord and his mother are looking after them, no matter what.”
Eddie O’Neill writes from Wisconsin .
To learn how to make a Ranger Rosary or to find out how to buy supplies, visit www.rangerrosary.com.