Rosary maker uses creative skills to evangelize in her golden years

Great-grandmother, about to turn 90, plans to keep at it

By Jill Kruse-Domeyer
Witness Editorial Assistant

FORT ATKINSON — Eighty-nine-year-old Therese Schmitt of Fort Atkinson knows precisely how much time it takes her to make a single rosary. “If I really go at it hard, and stay with it, 13 minutes,” she recently told The Witness. “And if I kind of putz with it a little bit, then 15.”

Schmitt has spent a great deal of time during her retirement years making rosaries. She and her late husband, Roman, had farmed together, “but then we moved to town,” Schmitt said, “and I started making rosaries.”

It was her sister who taught her the craft of rosary making. Schmitt makes what she calls “mission rosaries,” rosaries made of cord or string; she likes to create them in a variety of colors.

After she has made her rosaries, Schmitt gives them away. She donates many of the rosaries she makes to her parish, St. John Nepomucene in Fort Atkinson, to be placed in the church, available to anyone who might have a use for them.

“I just had Father bless a bunch of them,” Schmitt said. “And I look at the back of the church, and if they need more rosaries, I just add more rosaries, and people pick them up as they need them, and then they can keep them.”

She also gives her rosaries to neighboring parishes for people to pick up at those churches as well.

Schmitt has 43 grandchildren and 29 great-grandchildren, with two more on the way. She occasionally gives the rosaries she has made to some of those younger members of the family to have them bring them to the colleges they attend.

Schmitt, the daughter of a WWI veteran and Purple Heart recipient, also once made rosaries to be delivered to a military facility.

She said she doesn’t know how many rosaries she has made through the years, but she remembers making as many as a thousand rosaries for one convention alone.

Schmitt, the mother of 11 children, said the rosary has always been an important part of her family’s faith life. “It was always in our family to pray the rosary together. We would do it together when the kids were growing up,” she said. “We also prayed the rosary in the family I grew up in.”

She hopes the rosaries she makes are helpful to those who take them. “I hope that they use them,” she said. “They’re so simple. They don’t break. They can have them in their pockets. With their blessed rosary, they have something blessed on them that way all the time.”

As she prepares to turn 90 later this month, Schmitt has no plans to stop her rosary making any time soon. “It is something I can do when I’m retired,” she said. “I feel it is worthwhile.”

 

Therese Schmitt of Ft. Atkinson, a great-grandmother, is shown with some of the thousands of rosaries she has made. (Contributed photo)