By Katherine Long
Sun associate editor
Ashley Chruscicki is a bundle of energy, a constant multi-tasker who’s always doing something.
“I’m the kind of person who likes to be productive,” she says.
True to form, instead of lounging around on her summer break from SUNY Oswego, the sophomore spent her free time hand-making rosaries with her grandmother, Gayle Cleveland.
“I asked her if she might like to help me with making my rosaries, and she immediately said yes,” Cleveland said.
The fact that Chruscicki is legally blind never deterred either of them.
“I honestly don’t think about [my blindness] unless I run in to something or I need to read something and I clearly can’t read it,” Chruscicki said. “If I want to do something that is a visual thing, that won’t stop me. It just means I have to be very creative on how I am going to complete my task.”
Every Tuesday, the two would get together and string beads. Chruscicki quickly found a rhythm that allowed her to work and talk with her grandmother about life and faith.
“We talked about lots of things, like the Mysteries,” Chruscicki said. “I had never really done the rosary before this summer, so it was cool to learn.” She also said the time she got to spend with her grandmother made the experience extra special, and that they grew much closer as the weeks went on.
Chruscicki got so adept at making rosaries that she started stringing them whenever she found a spare 20 minutes. She’d make them while listening to books on tape, while she iced down a lingering sports injury—she ran track in high school and has run the Boilermaker road race in Utica six times—or during car rides.
By the end of the summer, the pair had produced more than 120 rosaries. A few were kept for family and friends, some went to participants at a rosary rally at the Good News Center in Utica and the rest were sent to Our Lady’s Rosary Makers, which will distribute them to missions around the world.
“I was happy to make them for people who need them and want them,” Chruscicki said.
Now back at Oswego, she’s continuing to make rosaries in between classes and her many activities, which include teaching confirmation classes at the Hall Newman Center on campus, where she was confirmed last year.
“Ashley’s very high-energy and full of life. It’s contagious,” said Michael Huynh, director of campus ministry. “She’s pretty amazing. We’re very blessed to have her.”
Chruscicki credits her mother, Diane, with raising her to be so independent. “My mom never treated me like I was blind,” she said. “She taught me how to ride my bike, do laundry and other things. I am very grateful for that.”
And Chruscicki’s faith gives her strength and allows her to understand her blindness as something of a blessing. “I believe that God makes us all a specific way for a reason, and He wanted me to be visually impaired and that was His plan,” she said. “If I had the option, I would never ask for complete sight because I wouldn’t be the same person [with] the same experiences and the same friends.
“You can either choose to rise to the challenge and overcome it, or let it overcome you,” she continued. “God never gives you things you can’t handle. And He won’t leave you to do anything by yourself. He is always there to help whenever you need.”