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Saint Mary's School students design rosaries for military service members, community citizens | Community Spirit

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Saint Mary's School students design rosaries for military service members, community citizens

SPRING LAKE, Mich., May 15, 2011 – Inspired by a desire to develop a service project that will help military service members and ailing church members listed in the church bulletin, plus community citizens?junior high school youth attending Saint Mary’s Parish School in Spring Lake have designed and created 60 beaded rosaries which are being given to those in need free of charge.

With direction by Tricia Suchecki, sixth-grade teacher at Saint Mary’s School, who previously had led students in making beaded rosaries while employed with Saint Catherine’s School in Ravenna, the students of Saint Mary’s School in Spring Lake have been working for two months providing family members, fellow students and others their creations.

“We are finding people that need these rosaries right here in the community.  Our sixth-, seventh-, and-eighth graders have grandparents who are ill.  Also, we found out a local pediatrician is dying of brain cancer and many of our students identified with him, in particular, because he was their doctor when they were small children.  So, of course, they wanted to show their appreciation for him as well as their support,” said Suchecki.

Supplies were purchased at local craft stores to help Saint Mary’s students begin the “Rosary Project” in March, in conjunction with the start of the Lenten season.  Suchecki also purchased online the “Madonna” and “Our Father” connectors and small crucifixes that are attached with beads to form each rosary.

“All students gave a five-dollar donation to help in the purchase of the beads and connectors and the Rosary Project just started from there,” said Suchecki, adding, “I’ve tried to purchase very pretty beads so the students could be very creative.  We haven’t had one duplicate among all 60 rosaries they’ve designed so far.”

Major Steve Shannon, now stationed in Afghanistan after serving two tours of duty in Iraq, will be home for son John Shannon’s confirmation at the end of May at Saint Andrew’s Cathedral in Grand Rapids.  John created a rosary especially for his father and others will be taken back by Major Shannon to fellow Catholic service members in his army unit.

 “I was excited about this project because I knew someone needed it, but finding time to do it was hard because of other work so I came in a few times to finish it during my lunch hour,” said Molly Conroy, eighth-grade student at Saint Mary’s School.

According to Suchecki, each rosary includes 53 “Hail Mary” beads, a crucifix, six “Our Father” beads, a Madonna connector, plus 253 seed beads.

“I felt like the people would appreciate my rosary so I thought I should make it with special care so they could use it,” said Erin Ladd, seventh-grade student at Saint Mary’s School, adding, “I first started it but had to redo it because an ‘Our Father’ bead was in the wrong place.”

From square-to-circle shapes, and rough-to-smooth textures, the plastic and crystal beads of various colors provide a visual feast to the eyes in the display set up in Suchecki’s classroom.

“This is one of my favorite service projects because I got to be creative and I chose colors that would go pretty together.  It only took me a couple of days to do mine,” said Grace Thornley, sixth-grade student at Saint Mary’s School.

Some of the beads are made out of unusual shaped stones and others have specks on them.

“Every time I got done with a section of my rosary, I had to go back and count the beads and say to myself, ‘Did I do this right?’ ” said student Erin Ladd.

Both students and Suchecki agree the hardest part in creating the rosaries is in the counting of the beads.  This is because certain beads must be put in certain places in order for it to be considered a traditional rosary.

“When I was making one, I thought about what it was going to look like at the end so I chose blue and green beads.  My favorite color is blue and all of the non-band students made their (rosaries) together,” said Tyler Kampenga, sixth-grade student at Saint Mary’s School.

Eventually, some of the rosaries are expected to go to persons in nursing homes, but anyone from the community who needs one for a loved one or themselves can call Barbara Wyant, church secretary at Saint Mary’s Church at 616/842-1702 to have one sent to them.

“Just waiting to see what it looked like at the end with all the pretty colored beads was fun,” said Emily Rauch, sixth-grade Saint Mary’s student, adding, “I feel like I did something very good making it for a person in need and the hardest part was making sure I didn’t mess up.”

Saint Mary’s Parish School in its current location was opened in 1954 with 150 students enrolled in grades three through eight.  In 1955, grades one and two were added.  Enrollment increased every year up to 1965-66 when 330 students were enrolled.  Since the mid 1970s enrollment has remained steady around 200 students.

Saint Mary’s Catholic Church has served the community for 140 years.  In April 2006, a 22,000 square foot Parish Center was completed and dedicated by Bishop Walter Hurley during a special ribbon cutting ceremony.  The mission of Saint Mary’s Parish reads:  Under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, the Catholic Christian Community of Saint Mary dedicate ourselves to living the Good News of Jesus Christ, primarily through worship, education love and service to all.