Story by S.L. Hansen
LINCOLN (SNR) — When Sister Mary Guadalupe, C.K., offered to teach her sixth-grade class at St. Peter School in Lincoln how to make twine rosaries last January, she had no idea her students would become inspired to help a little girl and her family battle cancer.
Sister Mary Guadalupe had learned to knot rosaries out of twine when she was in college, with the help of a Carmelite sister in Kearney. She invited students to come to school on a scheduled day off to learn how to make them.
“A few of the sixth graders were interested enough,” Sister Mary Guadalupe said. “Then more and more wanted to learn.”
She began teaching children before or after school, and sometimes during recess. Eventually, some of the kids were able to teach other students. Schoolmates in other grades have been learning, too.
Recently, a St. Peter kindergartener named Violeta was diagnosed with leukemia. She has been in Omaha for chemotherapy.
Immediately, the St. Peter School community launched into prayer for the little girl. A school assistant recommended the intercession of Blessed Jacinta, one of the three children of Fatima. Blessed Jacinta and her brother Francisco are to be canonized May 13, the 100th anniversary of the Blessed Mother’s appearance to the youngsters.
Principal Sister Mary Michael, C.K., agreed that there were many connections between Violeta and Blessed Jacinta, including their ages, their suffering from chronic illnesses, and their ethnic heritage. Violeta’s last name “Jacinto” is even very similar to “Jacinta,” which Sister Mary Michael called “the clincher for me!”
When a little child is faced with such a trial, of course, many people feel called to do something in addition to prayer. The student council decided to get orange and white bracelets – the colors of the leukemia awareness movement – with, “Team Violeta” on one side and “St. Jacinta, Intercede for her!” on the other.
Two of Sister Mary Guadalupe’s 6B students, Nataly Miller and Sydney Aldrich, approached her to ask if they could sell the rosaries they had made as a fundraiser for Violeta and her family.
“Nataly’s dad died about two years ago of leukemia,” Sister Mary Guadalupe revealed. “She wanted to do something to help someone who was in a similar situation.”
Within days, the two girls were able to recruit other students to help. Some are pitching in with the planning and execution, while all the sixth graders who know how to make rosaries are busily knotting twine. Students in other grades are making rosaries, too.
“Nataly and Sydney have done a beautiful job of involving others in the planning and carrying out of the project,” Sister Mary Guadalupe said. “Nataly has even had help from her family and neighbors to burn and prepare the twine.”
She said it takes somewhere between 30-60 minutes for the children to make each rosary. It also requires 15 to 18 feet of twine.
To help offset the cost of the fundraiser, Sister Mary Guadalupe decided to write to her favorite twine supplier, Twine By Design, to ask if they would be willing to discount twine, or perhaps ship it for free. Touched by Violeta’s story, the company owners shipped 10 500-feet roles of twine to the school, free of charge. They even offered to make a special order of twine in the Leukemia Awareness colors.
Several hundred rosaries have already been made, many sold before and after Masses at St. Peter Church and also St. Mary Church in Denton, where the teaching sisters reside.
Individual students and the school have taken orders for many more, so the rosary makers are tying knots just as quickly as they can.
As for Violeta, the latest update is that she seems to be responding well to therapy, medically. Sister Mary Michael said the family reported that Violeta generally feels pretty good, but must avoid any kind of potential infections so will be unable to come to school for quite some time.
“I am really proud of my students for coming up with this idea and the responsibility that they have taken,” Sister Mary Guadalupe said. “It’s beautiful to see them reaching out to others and doing what they can to help.”
She added, “All of us, children and adults, have within us, through Jesus’ grace, the power to do tremendous good. It can be as simple as having the courage to love the person in front of you.”
Sister Mary Michael said the students’ desire to help Violeta and her family through this project reflects their desire to practice corporal and spiritual works of mercy, something emphasized in religion classes throughout the school.
“To me one of the most beautiful parts of it is that the children initiated this on their own,” Sister Mary Michael said. “I’m so proud of the way our kids are responding to this cross of one of their fellow students. Please join us in praying for her.”