By Tanya Connor
WORCESTER – As the month of Mary begins, a local Catholic is seeking to bring the rosary back into people’s lives – through a kit he’s put together. He’s been spurred on by priests and his own experiences with the rosary. And he gives full credit for the project to Mother Mary herself.
Louis N. Tripodi, 82, of St. Stephen Parish in Worcester, has taken up a challenge he heard while listening to 1230 AM Emmanuel Radio. Father John Riccardo asked people “to do more to combat the secularism in this world,” promote the Catholic Church, and bring the Blessed Mother “back into our prayers.”
“The rosary is such a powerful prayer,” Mr. Tripodi said. “I said to myself, ‘I’ve always been devoted to the rosary, but what if we have a kit? … Maybe we can try to have nursing homes and classrooms and families say the rosary. The rosary is for everyone.’”
The rosary was once a very common family prayer, he said.
“How much good came out of it in the past,” he mused. “When you ask people how come they did so well (in life), they’ll say, ‘My mother and father made us say the rosary every day as part of the family prayer.’”
To help people today pray the rosary, Mr. Tripodi is putting together 55 kits. Each kit contains an eight-inch statue of the Blessed Mother, 20 handmade plastic rosaries of various colors, 20 full-color pamphlets about how to pray the rosary, an audio CD and a video DVD of the recitation of the rosary, with Marian hymns, and information about how this project came about.
Mr. Tripodi said he ordered the statues and pamphlets through the Office of Religious Education Bookstore in the Chancery and made a donation for the rosaries to Rose Marie Thibert, director of Our Lady’s Rosary-Making Program at St. Anthony of Padua Church in Fitchburg.
He said he paid for all of the items and production costs. Jill Palmisano, a professional organizer and member of St. Brigid Parish in Millbury, helped him pack the kits, which they are selling for $35 to help defray some of the costs.
He said he also donated rosary kits to 1230AM and 970AM Emmanuel Radio for the pledge drive that ends today, May 1, to be given to anyone who donates $100 or more. Those who give $25 can receive the DVD or CD, he said.
Mr. Tripodi said he is available to give demonstrations about how to use the kit at schools and nursing homes that buy one, and those who can’t afford to purchase one can contact him through Emmanuel Radio.
“I say the rosary once a month at Eisenberg Assisted Living and have to be there to lead it,” he said. He figured that if he put together a kit, someone there – or anywhere – could lead the prayers, setting out the statue, distributing the rosaries and pamphlets and playing the DVD on the television. Those praying could “watch a pleasant person do this for them, especially a person from the community of Worcester.”
That “pleasant person” praying the rosary is Deborah Collette. Other rosary stories about her lead up to this one.
One day about six years ago, Mr. Tripodi said, the woman who led the rosary before St. Stephen’s Lord’s Day vigil Mass announced that she was leaving. Father Joseph Nally, then St. Stephen’s pastor and now pastor of St. John, Guardian of Our Lady Parish in Clinton, asked if Mr. Tripodi would replace her.
“I accepted, although a little nervous,” Mr. Tripodi recalled. “There’s a lot of joy in saying Our Blessed Mother’s prayers. The thought of sharing this gift with other parishioners came to me.” He also wondered who would replace him if needed.
One Saturday he asked a young woman who prayed with the group if she would lead the prayers from the pulpit. That woman, Ms. Collette, who was there with her aunt, Bertha Guzas, said she would think it over. She asked for literature about how to pray the rosary.
Ms. Collette was born in Leominster, moved to rural New Brunswick, Canada, at age 9 and back to Leominster at age 22, she said.
“In Canada I never had said the rosary, so I was watching my aunt,” she explained. “I knew the Our Father and the Hail Mary in French. We never said the rosary at home.” She said she was shy about speaking in front of people, but an aunt in Canada encouraged her to lead the rosary here, saying the Church needed young people to be involved.
“The first time she tried it, she did pretty well,” Mr. Tripodi said. “As time went by, she did very well. Her voice was clear. Everybody liked her.” So much so that Father Nally invited her to be a lector, he said.
Ms. Collette said she still leads the rosary and lectors at St. Stephen’s. (Aunt Bertha, now 97, still comes with her.) And Mr. Tripodi fills in leading the rosary when she is away.
Mr. Tripodi said that while watching The Family Rosary, a diocesan program on Charter TV3 (Channel 193) at 8:30 a.m. Sundays, “I got the idea – maybe Debbie would be good for that.” He suggested her to Stephen Kaufman, who works for the diocesan TV Ministry in the Office of Communications.
“He made me tape her voice one Saturday at St. Stephen’s,” Mr. Tripodi said. “He liked her voice so he made an appointment to have a group from St. Stephen’s come to the Chancery. Others came too and Mr. Kaufman taped them praying the rosary, he said. They are currently featured on The Family Rosary which can also be found at www.worcestercatholictv.com.
Mr. Kaufman taped Ms. Collette praying the rosary for the new kit at Our Lady of Loreto Church, Worcester. Andrea Humphries, a choir member at St. Joseph Parish in Charlton, sings the “Ave Maria” at the beginning of each set of mysteries. Playing Marian hymns in the background during the recitation of the rosary is pianist Jan Mathieu, also from St. Joseph’s. Windows and images for the DVD come from several diocesan parishes, Mr. Kaufman said, including, Mary, Queen of the Rosary, Spencer; St. Cecilia, Leominster; St. Leo, Leominster; Blessed Sacrament, Worcester; and St. Paul, Blackstone.
Mr. Tripodi marveled at the talents that have “exploded” from a young person from rural New Brunswick who initially didn’t know the rosary well. He calls her “a grace from New Brunswick.”
“In my opinion, it’s Mary (the Blessed Mother) that’s doing all this,” he said.