Making rosaries, finding peace

This article was posted on: September 20, 2021

Darlene’s quest to lead others to experience the joy received when using this spiritual weapon

Darlene Matchey can trace her devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary and praying the rosary back to her childhood. “My grandmother and her oldest daughter, my aunt, were my godmothers. They gave me my first rosary and kept me well supplied in religious items through the years,” Darlene remembers. “I didn’t see my godmothers often because we lived in different cities, but we had a special bond. They were beautiful women.” Darlene’s fidelity to praying the rosary eventually evolved into her designing and making rosaries, a ministry she has enjoyed for more than 20 years. “Our Blessed Mother tells us that praying the rosary is our strongest weapon for finding peace,” she says. “That certainly has been true in my life.”

Darlene has a strong love of her Faith, which she has generously shared with others from early on. “My first experience of teaching religion class was after my eighth grade graduation,” she says. She was attending St. Thomas More Grade School in La Crosse and the Benedictine Sisters were her teachers. “My eighth grade teacher was extremely strict, and I was afraid of her,” Darlene admits with a laugh. “But I guess she saw something in me and asked me to teach religion to the first grade country school children.” The two women ended up having a long-lasting friendship. “She became my spiritual earthly mother,” Darlene says. “It turned into a beautiful relationship. She was my mentor.”

I always hope that the rosaries I make will bring peace and comfort to others.

Darlene discovered she enjoyed interacting with young students. She went on to teach both CCD (Confraternity of Christian Doctrine) and confirmation classes for more than 30 years. “What a blessing to be able to share my Faith with others,” Darlene says. “So many times, I would tell the students, ‘I wish I could hand you my Faith, but I can’t. You have to desire that relationship with God yourself.’”

When Darlene’s youngest daughter, Christine, began participating in Teens Encounter Christ (TEC), a diocesan youth retreat, she invited Darlene to come with her to see what it was all about. “I became totally enthralled with TEC and eventually offered to help with the retreats,” Darlene says. “It was an honor. The retreats were life changing, spiritually and emotionally, for both youth and adults. You realize that you are loved unconditionally. Even if there are others that seem to love you conditionally, you learn that our God offers us unconditional love.” Darlene says the retreats bore much fruit. “Parents became closer to their kids; a few students eventually married someone they met at TEC; a few are working in youth ministry today; one became a priest and one is a seminarian,” she shares. “It makes a world of difference in youth when you give them a strong foundation to build upon as they go out into the world.”

The diocese eventually phased out Teens Encounter Christ to embrace a different youth retreat, Adventure Camp, in which Darlene was also involved. “I was blessed to be able to chaperone seven summers before my knees gave out,” she says. “I can’t stress strongly enough all the good these retreats do for our youth.”

While Darlene enjoyed helping with youth retreats, she also participated in adult retreats and pilgrimages. One, in particular, became transformative for her. “I was at a Marian Conference in 1994 and overheard some women talking about a pilgrimage to Medjugorje. It felt like something I needed to do. I knew it would be good for me,” Darlene remembers. Medjugorje is a small village in Bosnia-Herzegovina that first became known to the world in 1981 with unsubstantiated Marian apparitions. “This trip turned out to be a life-changing experience for me,” Darlene shares. “There was such peace there. I did a lot of praying and saw little miracles happening each day. Our Blessed Mother was doing wonderful things and I was so grateful. I felt like the weight of the world had been lifted off my shoulders. A lot of emotional healing started to happen. I knew I was truly loved for who I was.”

Years later, Darlene went on two pilgrimages led by Monsignor Matthew Malnar, whom she met when she moved to Independence about 20 years ago. “Monsignor Malnar was the spiritual celebrant for many pilgrimages in his lifetime. I was blessed to be a part of one to Lourdes and Fatima, and then another to the Holy Land,” she says. Even though she no longer goes on long-distance pilgrimages, she still participates in retreats closer to home. “It’s a way to keep my spiritual life growing inside me,” Darlene says. “I’m 76 years old and I’ll never be too old to keep growing spiritually.”

Through the years, Darlene shared a good friendship and a deep love of the rosary with Monsignor Malnar, who passed earlier this year. “Years ago, I saw an article about a man who actually made rosaries,” Darlene says. “I visited him and he taught me how to do so. I found this to be one of my callings.” She designs and makes rosaries, a process taking about 2 ½ hours per rosary. “Some people make them faster, but I like to take my time. I find it a meditative process,” Darlene says. “I couldn’t begin to tell you how many I’ve made over the years. I’ve given away many and sold others for a nominal fee, by word of mouth.” Darlene says her husband, Clarence, is very supportive of her rosary-making, and she has even taught others how to make rosaries. “Monsignor Malnar brought two ladies to my home so I could teach them,” she says. “One of them lives in California and has made close to 7,000 rosaries!”

“I always hope that the rosaries I make will bring peace and comfort to others,” Darlene continues. “I know when I was going through a rough time, I began to pray the rosary when I went to bed and it gave me such peace. The rosary is my pacifier, my comforter to this day. I always sleep with my rosary and always have a rosary with me.” Darlene has one piece of advice for those who receive her rosaries. “I always hope they pray it! It saddens me if they put it away in a drawer for safekeeping. The rosary is meant to be prayed.”

Story by Mary Ellen Bliss
Published in the September/October 2021 Issue of Catholic Life Magazine

To Top