By Katherine Long | Editor
Emilie Fancett’s first rosary was red, a gift given to her at the close of vacation Bible school at St. Patrick-St. Anthony Church in Chadwicks.
Emilie, 8 at the time and a member of the Presbyterian faith, wasn’t familiar with the devotion. “I thought it was a funny-looking necklace,” she laughed during a recent interview with the Sun.
Five years later, Emilie, now 13 and a Catholic, heads up a flourishing rosary campaign at St. Patrick-St. Anthony with contributors and beneficiaries throughout the diocese and beyond.
Emilie’s idea for her “God Gives a Rosary” campaign — originally conceived with her grandfather, Ron Baker, and later brought to fruition with the help of her mother, Brenda — is elegantly simple: encourage parishioners to donate their extra rosaries and then make those rosaries available to folks in the parish and community who need them.
Emilie launched the campaign in her parish last winter. With the blessing of pastor Father Arthur Krawczenko and the help of Pastoral Associate Kathy Poupart, she set up a display in the parish entry: a small table; a statue of the Blessed Mother, refurbished by Brenda; a bowl of rosaries; a handout on how to pray the devotion.
The table was only supposed to be in the vestibule for one weekend before it moved downstairs to the fellowship hall, Brenda recalled, “but it took off so quickly in the first week, we couldn’t move it!”
Beginning that first weekend, “a lot [of rosaries] started going really fast,” Emilie said. But then the donations started pouring in. An April article in the Catholic Sun further boosted donations.
Rosaries have come from all over, Emilie and Brenda said — a bag from a gentleman in Vernon, a box from a grandmother in Liverpool, hundreds from the CNY Marian Center, many from the Syracuse area, and some 1,300 from parishioners at St. Paul’s Church in Whitesboro.
Deacon Anthony Paparella currently helps to coordinate St. Paul’s Rosary Guild; the ministry has been active in the parish for more than 15 years. A variety of parishioners hand-tie cord rosaries as part of the guild; Deacon Paparella said he has stopped counting but estimates the group has made tens of thousands of rosaries.
The group has donated rosaries to individuals and organizations, including EWTN, which distributes rosaries to missions around the world. So when Deacon Paparella heard about Emilie’s campaign through a St. Anthony-St. Patrick parishioner in the deacon formation program, “I said, ‘We can absolutely help this young lady.’”
“It’s about being present when God calls you,” Deacon Paparella said. “As soon as I heard, that was it. I knew.”
Emilie estimates some 1,000 rosaries have been distributed through God Gives a Rosary since last year. Many have gone to people who are incarcerated, via local jail ministries. Others have been picked up by individuals visiting the church. One week the parish celebrated two funeral Masses and some 100 rosaries were picked up by visitors, Brenda said. A number were also given to Father Krawczenko’s friend who ministers at a parish in Cuba.
“Emilie’s faith is deep and other-centered,” Poupart told the Sun. “It is this compassion for others and love of the Lord and Mary that encouraged Emilie to start this rosary initiative. Emilie has received rosaries from parishioners and others throughout the diocese, and the Catholic Sun was crucial to that success. Its impact on our parish of St. Patrick’s-St. Anthony’s includes the introduction of the rosary as a powerful prayer form to so many folks in the Sauquoit Valley and beyond through donations of rosaries to chaplaincy, homebound ministry, Catholic schools, and prison ministry.”
Emilie says she wants to expand her giving to nursing homes; she also hopes to gift white rosaries to children making their First Communions.
And she’s working toward those goals now, operating out of her headquarters in the family basement.
Last fall, “I had everything spread out in the living room, because I didn’t think anything would get that big,” Emilie recalled.
“I was joking around, [saying] ‘some of these things — it all starts out in their basements. I need an office in the basement!’”
Ask and you shall receive: A spot was cleaned out and now Emilie has a desk, adorned with images of Mary, and an antique, multi-paneled room divider on which donated rosaries hang.
She looks forward to seeing where her campaign goes next. Seeing the impact of her efforts “makes me happy and excited,” Emilie said.
Editor’s note: If you have a rosary you’d like to donate to the campaign, you may send it to Emilie’s attention at St. Patrick – St. Anthony Parish,