Father Thomas Barry, parochial vicar of St. Katharine Drexel Parish, congratulates the Altar-Rosary society members and offers them a blessing.
Father Thomas Barry, parochial vicar of St. Katharine Drexel Parish, congratulates the Altar-Rosary society members and offers them a blessing.
On the first Sunday of every month, members of the Altar-Rosary Society in St. Katharine Drexel Parish, Burlington, gather before the 9 a.m. Mass to recite the Rosary and pray for various intentions including for their families, their parish community, those who are ill and for peace in the world.

And while those intentions continued to be remembered during their Oct. 4 gathering, the members also prayed for a special collective intention of thanksgiving as they marked the society’s 100th anniversary that day. The occasion was a time for members to celebrate their devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary and the ministry they share.

“We are very close, like family, and we are very faithful,” said 91-year-old Olga Wasielewski, as she thought back to when she joined the society some 60 years ago.

“It’s been my life,” Wasielewski said of her dedication to the group. Of her devotion to the Rosary, she added, “Our Lord’s been good to me.”

Some 25 members were in attendance for the centenary observance that began with reciting the Glorious Mysteries of the Rosary followed by a Mass celebrated in All Saints Church, one of the parish’s two worship sites, by Father Thomas Barry, parish parochial vicar.

In remarks after Communion, Father Barry encouraged the congregation to look at the Altar-Rosary Society members for inspiration, especially when it comes to praying the Rosary. “That’s how you learn to develop a devotion to the Rosary, from those who pray the Rosary,” he said.

“It’s one of the greatest devotions that Mary gave us. All that God wants for us is found in the devotions,” he said, then referenced the homily from earlier in the Mass when he preached on the importance of having a good conscience and understanding that God is the “master of our conscience.”

“I don’t know how you can have a bad conscience with a devotion to the Rosary,” he said.

Maryann Ciechanowski, the society’s vice president, reflected on the past five years since she joined the society. Along with sharing a devotion to the Blessed Mother and a hope that that praying the Rosary will help to bring peace in the world, she has come to enjoy sharing camaraderie with her fellow members.

“It’s a very nice group of people,” Ciechanowski said. “We all can get together and practice our faith and reach out to people.”

Roberta Smith said her 50-year membership in the Altar-Rosary Society goes back almost as long as she has been a parishioner of first All Saints Church and now St. Katharine Drexel Parish.

“I wanted to be a part of the Church,” she said, thinking back to why she originally joined. Over the years, she said the group has done a lot for the parish, such as cleaning it, fundraising and providing flowers for the sanctuary.

Betty Mazur said that there are 112 current honorary and active members involved in the society then commented on how the society has strengthened in membership and ability especially since 2008 when St. Katharine Drexel Parish was formed from the merger of All Saints Parish with St. Paul Parish.

“It’s such a nice organization,” said Mazur, a member since 1982. Recalling some of the highlights over the years, she noted how members had assembled and distributed about 80,000 Rosaries since 1994, and they also prepared gift bags for retired nuns living in St. Joseph Villa, Reading, Pa., and mothers in need at Good Counsel Homes-South Jersey in Riverside, among other community outreach programs.

Mazur says it is particularly moving to see how members pull together when a fellow member passes away. During the funeral services, the fellow living members pay tribute by forming an honor guard and praying the Rosary for the deceased.

“They are there for you when you are active, and they are there to send you home,” she said.