Everything’s coming up roses for Mary Strosin.

She is preparing a monumental order of roses for the annual Roses for Life Mother’s Day fundraiser. The 88-year-old member of Blessed Sacrament Parish has helped with the sale for more than 40 years, and has coordinated efforts in the City of Milwaukee and Waukesha County for the past 12 years.

“I wasn’t looking for this role,” she said, laughing, “I got picked to do it and now I have to give it up because my kids say that this is it, so I would like to hand it over as soon as possible.”

The first rose sale began in the early 1970s with deliveries to area hospital maternity wards.

“We would go to the new mother’s rooms and bring them a rose. It was very nice, but we can’t do that anymore with the HIPPA law, and finding people to make those deliveries was hard,” said Strosin. “So, it was moved to the parishes.”

Figuring out how many roses to order is tricky, explained Strosin, as demographic changes, parish closures and mergers alter the total count each year. Much of her ordering amounts to estimated figures. “This year, I will order more than 9,000 roses for 35 churches in the area.”

The newest to participate is St. Martin of Tours Parish.  In previous years, carnations were given to the mothers, but they wanted to join the pro-life effort with the rose sale this year, explained Strosin.

The annual rose sale is sponsored by the Milwaukee Chapter of Wisconsin Right to Life. Proceeds from the sale go to grants for area pregnancy help centers, the annual State Fair booth, and a grant for the Family Life Council.

As one of the top selling parishes, with 600 roses sold last year, Steve Becker, Coordinator, Respect Life Committee Chair and Pastoral Council member of the St. Alphonsus Parish in Greendale, attributes their success to the number of volunteers and overall interest in Respect Life.

“We have four Masses on the weekend and they are filled with volunteers. We have a strong pro-life interest at St. Alphonsus, and I think there are also a lot of people that really enjoy the concept of roses for mothers on Mother’s Day,” he said. “The majority of people walking out of church, grab a rose for their wife, mother or grandmother. It is a good event from both of these perspectives.”

Divine Mercy Parish sits at the top of the list of the 35 parishes with 750 roses sold last year. As leader of the parish Respect Life Committee, Audrey Riccard believes that their success is due to the way they host their rose sale.

“What we have done is to let people pre-order and so the last two Mother’s Days, we had probably 400 roses pre-sold,” she explained. “We put a little notice in the bulletin and people are encouraged to purchase a rose in memory of their mother or other loved one and place it on Mary’s altar on Mother’s Day. We have this huge display of roses in front of Mary. It is beautiful.”

Despite selling half of their roses before Mother’s Day, Riccard says that many also purchase extra roses to present to their mother or grandmother on the day of the sale.

“We are happy to do this and it is a great way to remember moms or other women on Mother’s Day, and it is great for people who have forgotten to get a gift or are a bit absent-minded in that direction,” she said. “People like the idea of Roses for Life, and being able to buy a gift and support our mission.”

While most of the roses are sold to individuals attending Mass, Strosin said that one of the pastor’s purchases all of the roses and hands them out to the women after Mass.

“There was another parish that ran out of roses for their noon Mass and Father announced they ran out of roses, but if anyone would like to contribute anyway, they would begin a collection. They collected $160,” she said. “It is all very satisfying.”

If you would like to join the Milwaukee Right to Life Chapter, the group meets the third Saturday of each month at 1 p.m. at San Camillo, 10200 W. Bluemound Road, Milwaukee. milwaukeewrtl.org.

If your parish is not participating in the Roses for Life Annual Mother’s Day Rose Sale, and would like to add to this pro-life activity, please contact:
Wisconsin Right to Life Milwaukee