Ranger rosary coordinator flooded with help

By George P. Matysek Jr.

gmatysek@CatholicReview.org 

Not a day goes by when Pat Evans doesn’t receive phone calls and e-mails about ranger rosaries. Ever since the parishioner of St. Mary in Annapolis made a public plea for help crafting the military-style prayer beads, Ms. Evans has been flooded with inquiries from just about every state and several countries including Italy and England.

The Catholic Review published a Nov. 28 story about the shortage of ranger rosaries for American servicemen. The story was picked up by Catholic Online, a news Web site, where it spent many weeks as one of the site’s most viewed and e-mailed articles.

“It’s just been amazing,” said Ms. Evans, coordinator of the ranger rosary ministry, which is based at St. Mary. “Since the end of November, I’ve gotten over 300 calls. It was a little overwhelming at first.”

To deal with the sudden influx, a separate phone number devoted to ranger rosaries was established at the parish.

Since November, Ms. Evans said she has mailed about 500 “starter kits” complete with materials to make two rosaries and instructions on how to assemble the prayer beads.

Ranger rosaries were the idea of Frank V. Ristaino, a St. Mary parishioner and sergeant in the Maryland Army National Guard. Made of olive green parachute cord, black plastic beads and black plastic crucifix, the ranger rosaries include no metal parts that would reflect light or make rattling sounds in the field.

St. Mary’s parishioners also make similar sailor rosaries with gray parachute cords and royal blue beads – as well as tan ones for servicemen serving in desert regions.

Ms. Evans said the many people who have stepped forward to help produce the rosaries assist in meeting the demand. The rosary-making group at St. Mary, which meets at the parish’s mission church of St. John Neumann in Annapolis, assembles and ships about 400 rosaries a week – mostly to military chaplains in Iraq, but also to chaplains in Afghanistan, stateside training bases, the Navy fleet and military hospitals.

There are also similar parish ranger rosary groups in other parishes including Resurrection in Ellicott City and St. John the Evangelist in Columbia.

Ms. Evans said she receives constant requests from military chaplains for more rosaries.

“Mary is our spiritual mother,” she said. “As any true mother, she wants to be with her children – especially when they are in need. These rosaries are the chain between our soldiers and our lady.”

In the last four years since the rosary-making guild was established, 25 volunteers at St. Mary’s have made more than 70,000 ranger rosaries. The rosaries cost about $1 each to make and ship.

Ms. Evans said she continues to receive letters from servicemen thanking her for the ministry. She highlighted a recent letter from a retired special forces soldier who now works as an intelligence specialist for the U.S. Army Special Operations Command. He said he planned to start a ranger rosary group at his church near Fort Bragg.

“I carried the ranger rosary on every hazardous mission,” the soldier wrote. “The rosary provided me with great faith on those operations, and also comforted me as I prayed it in memory of a fallen friend.”

For more information, call 410-990-4100 ext. 4129 or visit www.rangerrosary.com.

Catholic Review

Catholic Review

The Catholic Review is the official publication of the Archdiocese of Baltimore.