July 15, 2011

A timeless bond of devotion: Rosary makers’ deep commitment spreads faith throughout the world

Bill Miller ‘s love for a grandchild and his special connection to the Blessed Mother has led him to dedicate his free time to making rosaries as a member of Our Lady’s Rosary Makers at Christ the King Parish in Indianapolis. (Photo by John Shaughnessy)

Bill Miller ‘s love for a grandchild and his special connection to the Blessed Mother has led him to dedicate his free time to making rosaries as a member of Our Lady’s Rosary Makers at Christ the King Parish in Indianapolis. (Photo by John Shaughnessy)

By John Shaughnessy

At first glance, Chariti Free and Bill Miller seem like unlikely partners in their efforts to share a gift of love with as many people as they can.

At 32, Free has a flair for fashion in the clothes she wears and the way she styles her hair.

At 82, Miller shows his preference for comfort in the gray T-shirt he wears, the one with the American flag on the front.

Yet despite the differences in their ages and fashion approaches, Free and Miller share a timeless bond of devotion to the Blessed Mother. It’s a devotion that links them like the beads on the rosaries they help to create and distribute to a wide variety of people—children making their first Communion, soldiers serving overseas, people in prison and just about anyone who wants to say a prayer or needs to have one answered.

Free and Miller are members of Our Lady’s Rosary Makers at Christ the King Parish in Indianapolis, one of the most prolific rosary-making groups in the archdiocese. They also share a gift for storytelling in how the thousands of rosaries that their group makes have an impact on people in surprising ways and in unexpected places.

“One lady was going over to Honduras on a mission trip with her husband, a dentist,” Miller says. “The little kids didn’t want to go to the dentist, but when she gave the children one of our rosaries, they hopped into the chair right away. They were ready to go.”

Miller smiles as he shares that story. Free gets emotional as she tells one of her favorite stories.

“I got a letter from a priest in Uganda,” she recalls. “They had a Christ the King Parish there, and they heard about us and requested rosaries. At the time, there was a war there, and he wanted the rosaries for people that were living in refugee camps. We sent them the rosaries. The people in those Third World countries don’t have much. We sometimes hear from people that the rosaries bring them hope, something they can hold onto. It touches your heart and keeps you going.”

Our Lady’s Rosary Makers began as an organization in 1949 in Kentucky. The ministry began at Christ the King Parish about 20 years ago, according to Free, who is the head of the parish’s rosary-making group. She became involved because of the difference she saw that the rosaries made to people, including herself and her daughter.

“I still have the rosary that I got from the Rosary Makers when I joined Christ the King,” Free says. “I used to work in Broad Ripple. I love this parish. Each of the children in the parish makes a rosary for their first Communion. When my daughter, Faith, went through her first Communion [in 2007], I helped out with her rosary.”

Miller became hooked in the same way—helping his granddaughter, Becky Hoff, make a rosary when she was in the second grade at Christ the King School 11 years ago.

“I’ve been making rosaries ever since then,” he says. “When you see the kids and the looks on their faces, you see all the joy they’re getting out of them.”

“If you really enjoy it, it’s an addicting hobby, and it’s really fun,” Free says. “You can be creative with it. We have all kinds of colors that we use to make the rosaries.”

The Christ the King group has made and distributed about 5,000 rosaries each of the past two years. Other parishioners who are prolific rosary makers include Kathy Alley, Jan Walton, Leslie Frigand, Linda Frigand and Miller’s wife, Mary.

“There’s a priest in Haiti who wants 100 rosaries with white beads for the Hail Marys and blue beads for Our Fathers for his first Communion class,” Miller says. “So Mary and I got busy. We made a hundred for them. We got a request for 700 rosaries from Lackland Air Force Base in Texas. We’ve gotten many thanks. There was a thank you letter from Belize, from the missions there, for the rosaries we sent.”

Miller and Free view each rosary they make as a gift of love from the Blessed Mother to the person who receives it.

“I don’t think any of us would be doing this if it wasn’t for the Blessed Mother,” Free says. “This is a devotion on our part. It comes from the devotion in her heart that she has for us. We take that same love and devotion and share it with other people.”

Miller nods and adds, “We’re just trying to put a rosary in the hands of everyone on Earth and do what the Blessed Mother wishes. She’s asked us to carry on her son’s work that he started—to share our faith.” †

Local site Links: