Rosaries a lifelong devotion for Bellevue parishioner
Rosaries blessed by four popes – including two saints – and one that comforted family members during World War II bombing raids.
Those are some of the treasures among a collection of more than 130 rosaries belonging to Frans Lang, a member of St. Mary Parish in Bellevue.
And they don’t just sit in a box on a bookshelf or in a closet.
For 17 years, she has shared those treasures with students at St. Mary School – where her children went to school and where she was a substitute teacher – telling the students in various grades about the rosaries and cultural rosary devotions.
For the last five years, she also has helped second-graders design rosaries, which are auctioned off during the parish’s annual fundraiser. Working in groups, with beads, centerpieces and crucifixes Lang provides, the students lay out their designs on cloth, which she photographs and assembles at home. Lang brings the rosaries back to the school so the students can pray with them.
"Since this is before the second-graders make their first Communion, this is kind of a big deal," she said. From parents’ bidding at the auction, at least "one of the children from each group usually ends up with the rosary they made, as a gift for their first Communion."
Lang began collecting rosaries at age 12, when Columban Father Peter Cronin gave her a rosary blessed by Pope John XXIII during the time of Vatican II. "Father gave it to me as a remembrance of my birth year, 1963," she said, "and told me to always pray the rosary."
"It made an impression on me, and I started collecting, and before I knew it people were bringing me rosaries," Lang said. "They heard that I collected them so when they’d go on trips, they’d bring them back for me, and as I traveled I would collect them from wherever I went."
She now has rosaries from six continents, she said.
Her most cherished rosary belonged to her grandfather who, with his family, used it to pray for their safety during World War II bombing raids on Nijmegan, Netherlands.
Others, she said, are special because they were blessed by popes who are now saints (St. John XXIII and St. John Paul II). She also has rosaries blessed by Pope Benedict XVI and Pope Francis, as well as one a friend brought her from Blessed Teresa of Kolkata.
And it’s more than a hobby. She has prayed with each one in her collection, and believes in the power of the rosary.
"In times of crisis, it’s the first thing I turn to," she said. It’s an important way to center one’s self; the repetition helps you calm and quiet yourself. Praying the rosary has always been a great comfort."