Saugus K of C council gives new life to old rosaries

SAUGUS -- In every sense of the word, Andrew Paci, a member of the Saugus Knights of Columbus Council #1829, holds decades in his hands.

As part of the Saugus Knights's rosary restoration program, Paci is responsible for repairing historic rosaries that once belonged to parishioners of Blessed Sacrament and St. Margaret Parishes in Saugus, as well as St. Anthony Parish in Revere (Father Xavier Arulraj of St. Anthony's gave the Knights over 100 rosaries from his personal collection).

Each rosary tells a story, often spanning generations. Some are from Italy or the Vatican. Some have been blessed by the supreme chaplain of the Knights of Columbus. Some are one-of-a-kind, made of rosewood and precious jewels. Others are mass-produced out of plastic. Some even come with photographs of those to whom the rosaries once belonged.

"It just boggles your mind, when you see the dates," Paci said. "They're precious."

On Sept. 28, Paci and his fellow Knights met up in the basement of the Saugus lodge to clean and repair the rosaries, as they have done since the program began in August. At every Mass, parishioners in Saugus and Revere place their old rosaries in baskets for the Knights to collect. The Knights then clean them with soap, water, and disinfectant, and put them back together if necessary. As they work, they wonder about the histories behind each rosary, and what they were used to pray for.

"There's a certain reverence to it," said Knight Michael Fernandez, "when you're handling them."

Sometimes, Paci takes pieces from one rosary to restore another.

"All of these pieces are signs of faith, are signs of love," said Knight Steve Fernandez, Michael's brother. "So (Paci) is putting them together, and it's a sign of giving back, of loving back."

After cleaning and repairing the rosaries, the Knights put them in plastic bags with prayer cards and redistribute them in the churches. They will do so until Oct. 7, the feast of Our Lady of the Rosary.

"It's a physical object that gives you a connection to the faith that you believe in," said Knight Henry Leno. "Something you can hold."

Knight Jack Dolan read about a Knights of Columbus council in Maine that was restoring rosaries and decided to bring the idea to Saugus. He thought it would be the perfect way to get people to "air out" their old rosaries and start using them again.

When the program first started, Dolan would have considered restoring 10 rosaries to be a massive success. So far, the Knights have restored 250. Dolan said he was "speechless" to see such a large response from parishes.

"As we grow older, the rosary becomes more important in our lives," he said. "We become more aware of the rosary itself and the things that it can do, and the promises made by the Blessed Virgin to those who pray the rosary."

"In our fast-paced world that we live in," Steve Fernandez said, "and all the news we see on TV, when do you really see a good news story like this? It's reconnecting people in a world that's really kind of crazy right now. It's grounding."