Fort Myers rosary garden blessed

The work of young hands and inspiration of an American Heritage Girl helped create a new steppingstone rosary garden at St. Cecilia Parish in Fort Myers.

This new garden, located on Parish property across the street from the main church building, was blessed and dedicated on Jan. 8, 2023, by Father Paul Dechant, Oblate of St. Francis de Sales, Pastor of St. Cecilia.

American Heritage Girl Samantha Mitchell (Troop 1203) proposed creating the garden as a special place to pray the rosary. Once approved by Father Dechant, Samantha, along with fellow American Heritage Girls and friends, installed the steppingstones in the shape of a rosary.

American Heritage Girls is a Christian-based Scouting-like organization which was founded in 1995 and has several troops within the Diocese of Venice.

The garden starts with the base of the cross (20 stones) pointing directly toward the church. Each bead is marked with a stone, with the decades having larger stones and the medal a cluster of four stones. The garden was placed primarily in the shade of pine trees to allow the faithful to enjoy peace and quiet while praying the rosary.

As part of the blessing and dedication of the garden Samantha led the faithful in praying the Joyous Mysteries of the Rosary.

The American Heritage Girl program is dedicated to the mission of building women of integrity through service to God, family, community and country and currently has about 52,000 members.

Girls across the nation and the globe participate in badge programs, service projects, leadership opportunities, and outdoor experiences, all with an emphasis on Christian values and family involvement.

Samantha Mitchell has been with the American Heritage Girls for several years and has earned numerous badges including several earned through the Diocese of Venice Scouting Award program. The rosary garden service project is similar in scope and importance to projects done by Boy Scouts who seek to become Eagle Scouts.

Rosary Makers promote devotion to Mary

By tradition, the Catholic Church dedicates each month of the year to a certain devotion, with the month of October being dedicated to the Holy Rosary, one of the best known of all Catholic devotions.

Throughout the Diocese of Venice, there are Parish-based rosary maker groups which dedicate their time to ensuring the rosary is available for all.

One of the newest of these groups is based at Our Lady of the Angeles Parish in Lakewood Ranch. Founded in 2019, there are more than a dozen who are active in the rosary makers outreach.

“Our mission is quite simple,” outreach founder Susan Nedeau said. “To promote the devotion to the Immaculate Heart of Mary through prayerfully making and teaching others to make cord and bead style rosaries.”

The rosaries are distributed throughout the Parish, the Diocesan Mission Office, various missions in the U.S. and abroad (mostly Africa), charitable organizations, groups that work with incarcerated, nursing homes, and assisted living communities. In just one year, the group has distributed more than 3,000 rosaries.

The global Pandemic did not prove to be much of a challenge for the group, as they developed a system for supplies to be picked up and dropped off, Nedeau explained. They also went from communicating by email to gathering twice a month socially distanced in the Parish parking lot.

“We all brought a chair, our masks and our rosaries,” Nedaeu said. “We would offer special intentions and pray our rosary together and pick up fresh supplies. This was an incredible morale booster especially for our members who live alone… We did not miss a beat!  We even experimented and learned how to make twine-knotted rosaries, the single decade rosary/chaplet and rosary bracelets.”

Throughout October, the rosary maker group has been placing announcements in the Parish bulletin to allow everyone to know about this creative outreach while also encouraging others to join.

While the Our Lady of the Angels Rosary Markers are relatively new to this unique outreach, the group at St. William Parish in Naples has been going strong for 27 years.

In that time, the group has made and distributed nearly 2.5 million rosaries, said Sandy Turner, President of the St. William Rosary Makers. In 2020 alone, more than 50 dedicated rosary makers at St. William have made some 50,000 rosaries. In addition, there are some who make rosaries on occasion while still others who provide support for the overall effort.

The group annually provides rosaries for participants in the annual Diocesan Youth Rally (1,200 for 2020), nursing homes, hospitals, the Universal Living Rosary Society based in Texas, as well as to a group which helps to bring hope for impoverished children in New York City.

“We’re still producing many rosaries during the Pandemic,” Turner said. “The shipping to missionaries overseas stopped, but we are still making them. We don’t meet like we have in the past, but we still do the work. For many, the act of making a rosary is part of a powerful personal devotion to the Blessed Virgin.”

Pope Francis, speaking at the Vatican on Oct. 7, 2020, the Feast of Our Lady of the Rosary, invited “everyone to rediscover, especially during this month of October, the beauty of the prayer of the rosary, which has nourished the faith of the Christian people through the centuries.”

The Holy Father said that the Blessed Virgin Mary has urged the recitation of the rosary in her apparitions, “especially in the face of the threats looming over the world… Even today, in this time of Pandemic, it is necessary to hold the rosary in our hands, praying for us, for our loved ones and for all people.”

The Our Lady of the Angels and St. William Rosary Makers are just two examples of the dedicated people who work tirelessly to ensure, even during a pandemic, that rosaries are made available to all who desire one. Both groups rely on donations for supplies and mailing costs to keep doing their work.

How to help

To support the Rosary Maker groups mentioned in this article, please send your donations to:

Our Lady of the Angels Parish, c/o Rosary Makers, 12905 E. SR 70, Lakewood Ranch, FL 34202;

St. William Parish, c/o Rosary Makers, 601 Seagate Drive, Naples, FL 34108.

Celebrating the Month of the Rosary in different ways

A determined group in Bradenton braved the rain to be sure to participate in the annual America Needs Fatima Public Square Rosary Crusade on Oct. 10, 2020 in front of Ss. Peter and Paul the Apostles Parish seeking prayers for our country.

A dozen such prayer rallies were scattered throughout the Diocese of Venice, joining some 21,000 others nationwide. The goal of the America Needs Fatima rallies is to win the heart and soul of America for Mary by spreading Our Lady’s Fatima message and promoting devotion to Her Immaculate Heart.

The rallies are scheduled at noon on the closest Saturday to the different recorded Our Lady of Fatima apparitions, the last of which occurred Oct. 13, 1917. While rallies earlier in 2020 were cancelled because of the global pandemic, the number of nationwide October rallies exceeded all expectations and appropriately take place during the Month of the Holy Rosary.

One of the participants in Bradenton said that now, more than ever – with a global pandemic and social unrest in the U.S., prayers are needed for our nation to seek the intercessions of Mary and make God a more central part of life. While the rain kept some away, she added the presence of people praying the rosary on a major road is an important image for all to see. As some drivers and passengers waved or honked their horns in support, others looked curiously upon the group. “We are making a difference by being out here. It’s wonderful.”

The rosary rally in Parrish, organized by the Knights of Columbus based at St. Frances Xavier Cabrini Parish, gathered at the intersection of U.S. 301 and Fort Hammer Road. At the same time a group of more than 50 prayed at the Venice Beach pavilion where organizers said prayer intentions were for every federal, state, county and local government worker.

A few days earlier, Oct. 7, 2020 marked the Feast of Our Lady of the Rosary and once again several commemorations took place.

Jesus the Worker Parish in Fort Myers held a vigil and celebration on Oct. 6-7, as the Feast Day is a national holiday for the Guatemalan Catholic community. The pandemic curtailed the usual larger Parish-wide fiesta. However, Oblate of St. Francis de Sales Father Patrick O’Connor explained the vigil and commemoration were too important to cancel altogether.

“We still held our Las Mañanitas (prayers and song in honor of Our Lady) and Mass,” Father O’Connor explained. “Afterwards, there was a small reception and people were provided with bags of food and drink so they could continue the celebration at home with their family.”

Epiphany Cathedral Catholic School in Venice had a special dedication of sacred art, a painting depicting Our Lady of Fatima, which was placed in the school office lobby. Father Richard and Father Robert Beligotti donated this artwork to the school, Principal Nicole Loseto explained. Tom and Nancy Murphy donated the frame in memory of Nancy’s sister, Lois. Father Richard Beligotti led the blessing and dedication ceremony which was streamed live to the entire school.

Meanwhile, students and faithful from throughout the Diocese joined the Diocese of Venice in participating in a virtual rosary event hosted by U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. The event was led by Archbishop José H. Gomez of Los Angeles, President of the Conference, who had called for this moment of prayer with the intention of uniting Catholics across the country at this time when there is much unrest and uncertainty.

Scout builds walking rosary garden for Parish

When it was time for Cameron Yedlin to choose an “Eagle Scout Project,” it was natural for him to decide to do something for St. William Parish. It was also a natural idea to help promote the praying of the rosary. This was the beginning of a passionate effort that has culminated in the blessing of a new Walking Rosary Garden.

St. William Parish Pastor, Father George Ratzmann, blessed the prayer garden on Feb. 2. Located on the northwest corner of the Parish property, the garden includes a walkway bridge, a full rosary with a cross laid into the ground with pavers, and there is a statue of Our Blessed Virgin Mary overlooking the entire area. There are also two benches for rest and prayer as well as a sign which serves to guide people in how to pray the rosary.

In addition to Cameron’s proud parents, Bruce and Bonnie Yedlin, a small group gathered for the blessing and congratulated the young man for a job well done.

Cameron is an active member of the Parish, an altar server at the 7 a.m. Sunday Mass each week, he also participates in Youth Group. Cameron has taken part in various mission trips and service projects and has taken part in the last several Diocesan Youth Rallies. He also joined the Diocese of Venice group that travelled with Bishop Frank J. Dewane to World Youth Day Panama City in 2019 and Krakow in 2016.

Joining the Scouts in first grade, Cameron worked his way through the ranks during the the next 11 years. He is a Boy Scout and has earned dozens of merit badges for Troop 243, far exceeding the minimum requirement for becoming an Eagle Scout, something he has dreamed about for many years.

“This has been a goal of mine for a long time,” the junior at Gulf Coast High School explained. “When I knew it was time to do an ‘Eagle Scout Project,’ my mind went right to what I could do for St. William Parish.”

Creating a proposal, Cameron approached and received an enthusiastic approval from Father Ratzmann. The proposal included designing the different components of the Rosary Prayer Walk and raising money for the supplies. He then spoke to the Council of Catholic Woman, the Knights of Columbus, the Parish Rosary Makers group, as well as the parishioners, seeking support for the project. The response was overwhelmingly positive.

“This has been a great experience.” He further explained how “so many people came together to help me with this; from the Parish staff to people I didn’t even know. It is humbling to have that support.”

During four weekends, the Rosary Prayer Garden took shape as Cameron cleared out the area of brush and dug the places for each stone paver, marking the location of each bead in the rosary or connection to take the shape of the cross. Utilizing the small space to maximum effect, and to enhance the prayerful nature of the setting, the pavers form a flowing arc around a tree and the statue of the Blessed Virgin.

The Walking Rosary Garden is an important legacy for Cameron, who said he prays the rosary as often as he can, even keeping a rosary close to him. “The rosary gives me great comfort because it is a way for me to pray to Christ through His Blessed Mother. At night, I will pray a decade or more and I have a rosary wrist band as well, so it is always with me.”

Next up for Cameron is completing the paperwork and giving a formal presentation to an “Eagle Scout Project” review board which will then determine if he will earn the elite Eagle Scout status.

Thanks to Cameron, the parishioners of St. William Parish in Naples now have a lasting legacy created by one of their own young people. Great job Cameron!!!

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