From wedding flowers to beads in the shape of Blessed Solanus Casey, local rosary makers take 'decades' to hone craft
DETROIT — When Linda Weber makes a rosary for a customer, she prays through the process as she thoughtfully chooses the beads and threads them together. Even when Weber makes a rosary for someone she doesn’t know, she prays for him or her. Because God knows, she says.
Weber has been creating rosaries for nearly 30 years. Like many girls growing up in the 1980s, she made hundreds of friendship bracelets in her middle school and high school years. She started making jewelry in her late teens after a friend introduced her to beading.
“Then someone asked me to make a rosary and I didn’t know how,” Weber said. “I wasn’t even praying the rosary back then, so I had to learn how to make one. I enjoyed it so much that I started making more and more.”
She sold rosaries to an online retailer, The Catholic Company, and to local customers as word spread of her business. In 2005, she launched her Esty shop, Beatus Baca.
Always a creative person, Weber started to design out-of-the-box rosaries using non-traditional beads to reflect people’s interests and personalities. One of her most popular items for kids is a “building block rosary” with Lego-like pieces serving as Our Father beads. Mini footballs are used in her University of Michigan and Michigan State rosaries. She also makes rosaries with letter beads to spell out names or sacraments. Weber enjoys brainstorming with her customers to create a rosary that reflects interests in music, animals, Irish heritage, a favorite saint, etc.
“I’m perpetually 12 years old inside, so I love making jewelry and rosaries for kids,” Weber said. “I’ve been doing themed rosaries for a long time. I like to collaborate and make customers feel part of it.”
Weber has lost count of her rosaries, but knows she has made thousands over the years.
“To think of all the rosaries across the world I’ve made that are being prayed with every day is really an honor,” Weber said.
Weber collects rosaries that are no longer being used or in disrepair. She refurbishes them or salvages the beads to make rosaries to sell on her Esty shop, then donates the proceeds to a Catholic charity.
Preserving memories through prayer
Weber is far from the only local Catholic to take up an interest in creative rosary making.
Mary Ann Joseph’s business, Timeless Memories by MJ, began in 2016 as a means for her and her husband to send their children to Catholic schools. Joseph, a legal assistant and office manager, began a home business preserving wedding flowers when she came up with the idea to use the petals to make rosaries.
“I had always wanted to learn how to make rosaries, and I wondered if I could learn to make them from flower petals,” Joseph said.
She experimented with several methods, including one from religious sisters at a convent who posted a video online demonstrating how they incorporate flower petals into rosary beads. After some trial and error, Joseph found a technique she liked. Using molds, she creates clear resin beads that showcase the dried petals. These one-of-a-kind “petal bead rosaries” allow her customers to remember their wedding day or a deceased loved one as they pray. Joseph can also customize rosaries with charms, medals and photo pendants.
“People absolutely love these rosaries. Some will order 20 at a time,” Joseph said. “It’s a blessing to me. I love the craft. I love the response I get from people who receive them, whether ordering for themselves or giving it as a gift. The look on people’s faces and the comments I receive is so rewarding.”
Special rosaries for special places
While Dino Piccinini doesn’t personally craft the custom rosaries he sells to customers, his work with Ghirelli USA is just as fulfilling. Ghirelli, a family-owned and operated company based in Italy, creates custom rosaries for schools, parishes and organizations. Piccinini, managing director of U.S. sales for Ghirelli, grew up in Metro Detroit and was married at Sweetest Heart of Mary Church in Detroit. He now lives in the Toledo area.
Piccinini works with schools and parishes to design a rosary that highlights special features of the building — artwork, a crucifix, or the façade of the church. Ghirelli artisans in Italy are given photos of each feature, which they then use to make medals, starting with a sketch and then a digital rendering before each metal component is cast in a mold.
“We want the rosary to be representative of the church and to be heirloom quality,” Piccinini said. “People want to be able to pray specifically for the parish, the parishioners, the pastor, and their own intentions. It’s more meaningful than any other item you could have because you can pray with it.”
Parishes and schools can collaborate with Ghirelli to commemorate a jubilee or other event or sell rosaries as a fundraiser. High schools can offer senior parents the option of ordering a school rosary for their graduate.
Though Piccinini has a difficult time choosing a favorite, he’s especially proud of the rosaries Ghirelli created for St. Joseph Shrine and the Basilica of Ste. Anne, both in Detroit, and for the beatification of Blessed Solanus Casey.
“We’re working with one-dimensional images like a photograph, and we’re able to create a 3D component that looks like a miniature church or a crucifix that really means something to people,” Piccinini said. ““I’ll never get tired of seeing the finished product when it’s done.”
Unique custom rosaries and rosary repair
Timeless Memories by MJ
Petal bead rosaries and rosary repair
Custom rosaries for parishes, schools and organizations