Long haunted by the urgency of Mary’s words at Fatima, Brother Sylvan, C.F.X., decided in May 1949 to do something extra for Our Lady. He began to teach children how to make rosaries for the missions.
Inspired by Our Lady’s words, and having seen letters from missionaries around the world, he knew of the great need for rosaries in the mission fields.
He thought: The missionary can teach his people Christianity, he can offer the Mass for his people, but what happens when he’s off caring for others? With a few rosaries arriving he could now leave a symbol of the Faith to his people. Even though they could neither read nor write, they could pray the rosary.
Letters began pouring in from missions all over the world. The need was really greater than anyone had imagined.
Brother made a trip to Denver to teach ten people there. This group grew and spread the word to others as far away as a small town in Minnesota. Inspired people of Detroit started a group which today sends over 100,000 rosaries a year to the missions.
He set up a small office in a basement room at St. Xavier High School in Louisville, Kentucky and named his slow-forming club “Our Lady of Fatima Rosary Making Club.”. An elderly couple donated $25 for a typewriter to communicate with missionaries and club members.
In 1951 Brother asked Father Bertrand Rapp, newly ordained parish priest, to take over the duties as Chaplain to the Club. On a cold winter night in December, after working all day to build a fieldstone “Grotto for Mary”, Brother Sylvan died.
Father Rapp worked tirelessly to continue Brother’s work. Teaching here, arranging for volunteers somewhere else. He spent his vacations in Rosary Club endeavors, unselfishly working for Mary. By 1954 membership had grown to 2,500 adults and many children in schools across the nation.
With growth came the need for more capacity to serve our members. Brother Sylvan had a difficult time raising that first $25 for a typewriter, and with growth, there were more expenses. Thirty-four thousand dollars for a bead mold; twenty thousand for a die to mold the needed crucifixes and centers. Wire had to be bought in half ton lots for maximum economy. Where does all the money come from?
Our Blessed Mother inspires, but she doesn’t make it easy; yet the answer came simply enough. The deficit is made up by the Club making catalog sales to those rosary-makers who wish to make a nice gift rosary for a friend or relative. The profit from these catalog parts help make up the mission loss.
Annual members dues of $2 help pay for our newsletter, Our Lady’s Messenger, with the remainder going into the deficit fund. Invariably when there is need, someone helps with a small donation; sometimes a large one.
Today the club has grown from its humble origins to be the world’s leading mission Rosary apostolate. A new International Rosary Center was built in 1968. Today the center is more than double its original size. OLRM staff work diligently five days a week processing and filling orders for rosary supplies, as well as, connecting members with missionaries and missions in need of rosaries.
The International Rosary Center houses our operations, showroom, and Our Lady’s Chapel – in which we pray our morning rosary. The Blessed Sacrament is present and we have a monthly Mass on the First Saturday in honor of Brother Sylvan and all Club members.