New seminarians at Saint Francis de Sales Seminary, take note: Dcn. David Drefcinski is going to ask what your two favorite colors are.
“They always look at me like deer in the headlights — ‘Well, uh, why do you ask?’” said Dcn. Drefcinski, a seminarian from the Diocese of Madison. “I say, ‘Well, it helps me remember your name.’”
A few days later, when they find a one-decade paracord rosary hanging from their bedroom doorknob, they understand.
The rosary, hand knotted by Dcn. Drefcinski himself, always features their favorite colors.
“The rosaries Dcn. Drefcinski makes are my favorite ones I have ever had,” said Dcn. Craig Richter, who said he usually puts one in his pocket every morning.
“I love them,” said seminarian Noah Giebel. “Receiving a little gift helps you feel more welcome when you get here, especially if it’s something handmade. It’s very personal.”
Dcn. Drefcinski has been making these rosaries for over a decade, since he began working summers at a Boy Scout camp near Galena, Illinois. Himself a Boy Scout when he was growing up in Platteville, Dcn. Drefcinski knows a thing or two about knots. He had learned to make knotted rosaries on retreat using a different type of material but was inspired to use a sturdier utility cord in his own version. He gave the rosaries to fellow camp staffers.
“Some of them weren’t Catholic, but they were Christian,” he said. It had an impact, too — one of his friends from the camp, though not a Catholic, tells Dcn. Drefcinski that he keeps his paracord rosary with him in his pocket. “He says that when times are tough, he just pulls out the rosary and starts praying,” said Dcn. Drefcinski.
A graduate of Immaculate Heart of Mary Seminary of St. Mary’s University of Minnesota, Dcn. Drefcinski has been at Saint Francis de Sales Seminary for four years. The rosaries he makes are not only a good way to welcome new seminarians, he said, they are tools that aid in evangelization and relationship-building. His rosary-making ministry has followed him everywhere he has gone on his journey toward priesthood — to his teaching parish at St. Bernard and St. Henry in Watertown, on his Institute for Priestly Formation program in Omaha, Nebraska, and even to a summer gig working at Culver’s, where he gifted them to his colleagues.
“One person was crying when I gave it to her and said, ‘No one’s ever given me a rosary,’” he said. “It was really special. Now these people have a blessed item in their possession that they wouldn’t have had before.”
It takes Dcn. Drefcinski about 15 minutes to make a one-decade rosary out of barrel knots using heavy-duty camping cord, which he buys from Fleet Farm, Farm and Fleet and Paracord Planet, an online retailer. After making the rosaries, he used to find a deacon or priest to bless them — but since his ordination to the transitional diaconate this spring, he can do that himself.
Dcn. Drefcinski doesn’t accept any money in exchange for the rosaries, and he has also made a YouTube tutorial on how to create them. He said he finds this particular style of rosary to be both durable and portable. “I put mine on my gear shifter in my car, and I never have to worry about losing it. Guys also take them running because they don’t get tangled up. Sometimes the finger rosaries are hard to turn, but this one is on your whole hand, and even if you’re wearing gloves, you can still use them.”
“I’ve taken at least one of mine on backpacking trips before,” said Giebel.
Seeing other seminarians pray with the rosaries made by Dcn. Drefcinski is “a common and edifying occurrence,” said seminarian Jeremiah DeGroot who, along with Giebel and Richter, is one of the seminarians who has learned how to make the rosaries himself.
“The way Dcn. Drefcinski goes out of his way to welcome each of us new men as we enter seminary shows a great example of the intentionality of the community here at Saint Francis de Sales,” he said.
Fr. Robert Kroll, S.J., Director of Spiritual Formation at Saint Francis de Sales Seminary, said he takes his green-and-blue paracord rosary from Dcn. Drefcinski with him when he walks on the Oakleaf Trail.
“It’s easier to walk at a brisk pace with (the paracord rosary) than with a longer, five-decade rosary,” said Fr. Kroll. “When praying with Dcn. David’s decade rosary, I normally offer one decade for him and his fellow seminarians.”
“Dcn. David’s rosaries keep the Blessed Mother on the minds and hearts of our seminarians,” said Fr. Luke Strand, Rector of Saint Francis de Sales Seminary. “When I see our seminarians carrying a rosary made by Dcn. David, I know that they are welcoming Our Lady into their discernment. The rosary brings consolation to our men through the protective prayers of the Blessed Mother.”
Dcn. Drefcinski has started to make blaze orange and camo-colored rosaries for hunters, which he distributes at the annual gun and hunter blessing in Kewaskum.
“It’s a good way to evangelize and teach them about the rosary,” he said.
He views this ministry as his way of helping people, even non-Catholics, grow closer to Mary and understand the power of her role in the spiritual life of the Christian.
“Mary has made a big impact on my life, just drawing close to her as my mother, and I want to be able to share that,” he said. “Because of these rosaries, I’ve had a lot of conversations with Protestants explaining that Mary is their mother, too. They may not agree with me right now, but she’s there, and she’s present.”
“‘To Jesus, through Mary,’” said Dcn. Richter. “This, most of all, is what Dcn. Drefcinski is helping us all do by making these rosaries.”
Dcn. Drefcinski’s YouTube tutorial can be viewed at https://shorturl.at/VXZ67.