When Barbara Williams asked for inspiration for a way that she and fellow Rosary Altar Society members could support Respect Life efforts, the Blessed Mother and the Holy Spirit answered in a very real, tangible way, providing the impetus for a Bread for Life Campaign.

“The inspiration really came through prayer,” said Williams, the Rosary Altar Society president in St. John Parish, Lakehurst. “This really started because of Holy Mother Mary – as Mother of the Eucharist, with the Holy Spirit being her spouse, and us being in the middle of our three-year Eucharistic Revival.”

Organized and carried out by the Rosarians, the Bread for Life Campaign involves RAS members baking bread loaves for sale on the third Sunday of each month, with all proceeds going toward local prolife organizations including Birth Right and Open Door. The first weekend alone brought in more than $800.

“We’re averaging about $700 per weekend,” Williams said, noting that an average of 20 Rosarians bake for each sale. “The response has been enormous. We sell each loaf for five dollars; people are so overwhelmingly generous – they may buy one loaf and give us $20.”

The campaign idea came to Williams last August during her personal prayer time. She felt called to approach Father James O’Neil, pastor of St. John Parish and chaplain for the RAS, with her statue of the Virgin Mary with Child holding a dove, and have him bless it.

“After I gave him that statue is when things really began to roll,” she affirmed.

Using the statue as inspiration, Williams asked her granddaughter, Brittany Busch, who graduated in 2022 with an art degree from Georgian Court University, Lakewood, to draw a prototype for a poster the Rosarians could use to promote the Bread for Life Campaign. Busch created two designs – the original based on the statue, and a second illustration that showed Mary holding a loaf of bread.

“We’re using both designs,” Williams said. “The one I asked her to create we are using for the posters, and the one she was inspired to draw for postcards.”

Williams took the designs to Father O’Neil and explained her campaign idea. “Like a surveyor who locates the right spot on the other end of a lot, I knew we were heading in the right direction,” she recalled. “I took the illustration prototypes for him to see, and asked permission to begin [the campaign]; with his blessing we started in October.”

She coordinated with Mary Ann Dempkowski, parish director of religious education, to have letter-sized reproductions of the campaign poster with an inspired mission prayer distributed to religious education students in September, so that they could pray for the campaign’s success. Williams also contacted several nearby parishes’ RAS presidents, asking them to consider starting the campaign in their parishes – and if they did, to share the prints with religious education classes for prayerful support.

“We’ve had great interest from other parishes,” she said, noting that the parishes contacted were St. Joseph, Toms River; St. Barnabas, Bayville; St. Aloysius, Jackson; St. Luke, Toms River, and St. Mary of the Lake (part of Our Lady of Guadalupe Parish), Lakewood.

Thanks to the generous response of parishioners, some weekends the bread supply at St. John’s can run low.

“We started [at our RAS meeting before the first sale] by asking members to raise their hand if they could bake three loaves,” Williams explained. “Because I live near the church, if we start selling on Saturday after Mass, and at 8 a.m. on Sunday if I hear they’re low, I quickly whip up another batch.” That batch is Dolly Dillon’s Irish Soda Bread – her treasured grandmother’s secret recipe, and a bake sale favorite.

“Because it’s a campaign, we’re on a journey moving forward,” Williams added. “I just feel Holy Mother Mary is doing a wonderful work and the Holy Spirit is moving and energizing us … So many people prayed for this campaign; if we can get the word out, others will be inspired to do this – that’s my goal.”

To learn more about starting a Bread for Life Campaign, and for posters or postcards to reproduce, call Barbara Williams, 732-581-8817.