Altar Rosary Societies serve area parishes
By Claudia Mathis
SUN staff writer
Since the late nineteenth century, Altar Rosary Societies have been a vital part of parish life. In particular, three Altar Rosary Societies in the Syracuse Diocese have served their parishes well. Ss. Cyril and Methodius Church in Binghamton, St. Stephen’s in Phoenix and St. Ambrose in Endicott have all given immeasurable support to their parishes through hosting spiritual and fund raising events, caring for the linens and vestments of the altar, reciting the rosary and praying for the needs of parishioners.
Julia Hudak, president of the Altar Rosary Society at Ss. Cyril and Methodius, said her group consists of 282 members and is comprised of women, men, young adults and their family members. Seven people have recently joined the group. Approximately 40 of the society members meet once a month on Sunday. “My goal is to keep the society going,” said Hudak.
As president for the last nine years, Hudak said she has acquired many friends through the organization. “I’ve enjoyed every minute of it — it’s very fulfilling,” she said.
For the last 30 years, the society has made a quilt to be auctioned off at the annual craft fair at the church. The members also host a bake sale at which ethnic food is sold. The proceeds are given to the church.
A group of 15 society women have made rosary beads for the last seven years. They have made a total of 24,830 rosaries, which have been given out to parishioners and sent to overseas missions.
Hudak explained how the members of the society oversee the first communion and confirmation ceremonies, providing flowers for the girls and boutonnières for the boys. “We also give the Communion children small gifts — a Guardian Angel cross, prayer and a Guardian Angel to carry in their pocket,” said Hudak. “We also give rosary beads to the parents and children.”
The society also sponsors a Day of Recollection every other year in March. The event, which is coordinated with other area churches, is very well received, said Hudak. The event includes a speaker and luncheon and usually draws at least 120 people.
On May 4 the society members took part in the May Crowning of the Blessed Mother, processing down the aisle before the Mass began. Society members also rehearsed with the first communion students the day before the Crowning. On the day of the ceremony, the Society dressed the boys in Knights of Columbus clothing and the girls in blue capes and flowered headbands.
The society has also initiated a memorial service for deceased members of the parish. The service is held every November and is growing by leaps and bounds.
“Every June,” Hudak said, “a brunch is provided for our ladies to thank them for all their help. Our seven officers do the cooking. I have a wonderful group of ladies and I always thank them for what they do.”
Reggie Yurko, president of the Altar Rosary Society at St. Ambrose in Endicott, said her experience in the society has been very rewarding. “It gives me great satisfaction to be able to take care of the linens and the vestments in the sanctuary and to meet and get to know the women of the parish,” said Yurko. A member since 1968, Yurko has held the office of president for the last 12 years.
Yurko said that the society in her parish originally started with the women attending funeral viewings with the intent to pray. Now, the mission of the society is prayer, service and care of the altars. The group of 150 women meet four times a year. “We talk about peoples’ needs and offer intentions,” said Yurko.
The society at St. Ambrose is very involved in serving the parish as well as missions in Africa. They contribute the proceeds from their fall and spring bake sales to the parish’s food pantry and to a convent in Nigeria where postulates are preparing to become religious. In addition, the society contributes to St. Kizito, a home for babies in Uganda and the Marianist Institute of Rural Artesans for Christian Life Education in Africa.
The society recently hosted a gathering of Church Women United. They prepared the food for 66 women.
The society has also served its community by donating needed items to area nursing homes and those individuals confined to their homes. A group, started by officer Helen Stankiewicz, crochets and knits the much needed items.
Within the parish, the society hosts a communion breakfast, which is held the first week in June. Yurko said the breakfast has been very well attended.
In addition, in the first week of December, the group hosts a Christmas Tea for the women of the parish.
The Altar Rosary Society at St. Stephen’s has been active in their parish for more than 50 years. President Sue Shatrau said that their mission is to provide and care for the altar, assist the pastor with any special work, pray for members who are ill or confined, pray the rosary at a member’s wake to promote a greater devotion to Jesus and the Blessed Mother, and to support the parish by hosting spiritual and fund raising events throughout the year.
Their biggest fund raiser is the annual Strawberry Festival, which will be held June 27.
The society gathers the second Tuesday of each month to recite the rosary and to take care of business matters.
Shatrau said the group has established a Recognition Award for those high school seniors who continue to practice their faith at St. Stephen’s since their confirmation. This year, they are donating three $200 awards to deserving seniors.
The society purchases gifts for the confirmation classes and first communion sets for the communion classes.
“I just love the fact that we’re able to do that much for the church,” said Shatrau. “It‘s been my pleasure to serve as the president of this organization for the past two years.”