Mary Wdowczyk, a parishioner at the Basilica of St. Josaphat, Milwaukee, never expected to give so much of her time to the Catholic organization Roses for Our Lady when she first began participating in the 1980s.
“They would have Holy Hour and the May Crowning and all these things, and I just kept being active and going along with it,” Wdowczyk said, explaining how quickly the time passed. “…I just got more and more involved in it, and I was in it for almost 30 years.
“The way that they honor our Blessed Mother and the rosary with the May Crowning and now her feast days – they have Masses or processions where they celebrate all her feast days – I thought it was such a wonderful way to honor her and get her known throughout the whole archdiocese,” she added.
Group established in 1980
Roses for Our Lady was established in 1980 by Fr. Thaddeus Bryl as an association of Catholic laity with the purpose of honoring Jesus and Mary through rosary processions, eucharistic Holy Hours and celebrations of the major Marian feast days. John Pryor was elected first president, while Anne Bender currently holds the position.
The term “roses” in the name of the organization is to be understood in a metaphoric sense, not so much referring to literal flowers, but rather to the prayers of the rosary and other sacrifices offered to Jesus through Mary in reparation for sin, according to information on the organization’s website.
May Crowning information
Roses for Our Lady will hold its annual May Crowning Sunday, May 8 at the Archdiocesan Marian Shrine, 141 N. 68th St., Milwaukee, at 2 p.m. Fr. Don Hying will preside, with Fr. Matthew Widder and Jesuit Fr. James Kubicki as concelebrants. Deacon Christopher Klusman will assist.
This outdoor event includes exposition of the Blessed Sacrament, Benediction and eucharistic procession with rosary and hymns. First communicants are encouraged to wear their first Communion attire.
Kurt Keidl, liturgy coordinator and prayer leader for Roses for Our Lady and a member of St. Anthony Parish, Milwaukee, became involved with the organization when he was in the eighth grade and attended his first May Crowning through Roses for Our Lady.
“My great-aunt and my great-grandmother took me to that first event,” he explained. “I’ve gone to them ever since, and as I began to get older I would be in the crowd praying the rosary, and people commented on how I had such a nice, loud voice.”
Asking him to lead the rosary one year eventually led to a life-long job ever since, according to Keidl. He said he is involved and invested with Roses for Our Lady because of his devotion to Mary.
“The great love for the Blessed Virgin Mary and the authentic Marian devotion that is promoted by the organization, ‘To Jesus through Mary,’” he said, explaining his involvement. “That Marian devotion is not just an end in itself, but the goal is actually a greater union with her divine son, Jesus.
“I love the traditions, I love the rosary processions, the eucharistic Holy Hours, and that’s what’s drawn me to the organization,” Keidl added.
Organization has 325 registered members
Active members of Roses for Our Lady attend and participate in the events such as the May Crowning or Holy Hours. Non-active members unable to attend events provide prayer support.
“Anyone can be a non-active member and pray for us, pray the rosary at home, and that supports us as well, too,” he explained. “We have 325 registered members, but it would be great to grow because our numbers had been even larger in the years past.”
Keidl added that most members find other ways to serve God in their day-to-day lives.
“All of our members, of course, belong to their own parishes and all of them are very active (in their parishes),” he explained. “They’re extraordinary ministers of holy Communion, they are lectors, some take Communion to the hospitals and to the sick, some help in their parish food pantries, the St. Ben’s Meal Program, St. Vincent de Paul Meal Program, some belong to other Marian groups as well, like the Legion of Mary or the Rosary Evangelization Apostolate.
“We are seeing more families and young people attending,” he added.
In conjunction with Saint Francis de Sales Seminary Vocations Office, Holy Hours for Roses for Our Lady are offered by Fr. Don Hying, the organization’s spiritual director and rector of the seminary. Held in the seminary’s Christ King Chapel on the second Sunday of the month at 2 p.m., they consist of exposition of the Blessed Sacrament with prayers for vocations and respect life, the rosary for vocations, the Divine Mercy Chaplet, some time of silence, a Scripture reading and reflection by Fr. Hying, and Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament.
“I think it’s a dynamic group of people who truly believe and live their Catholic faith, and really see that devotion to the Blessed Virgin is an integral part of that faith,” Fr. Hying explained. “(They) hold her up as a model of discipleship for us and as the most powerful intercessor in heaven who can help us.
“Every great saint had a great devotion to the Blessed Virgin and I think that they (Roses for Our Lady) in essence perform that service for our archdiocese by lifting up Mary as a model of prayer, as a model of belief, as someone that we can emulate,” he added.
People hungry for prayer
Wdowczyk ended her stint as president of the organization in 2002 after a four-year term in which she helped coordinate Holy Hours and spread the word about the organization through newsletters and fliers.
“I just think the beauty of honoring Our Lady in the archdiocese is how I just kept being involved,” she said. “People all help and they all come through when you need help, but when we had the May Crowning at the shrine, we processed the Blessed Sacrament all the way from the shrine (141 N. 68th St.) to 70th and Blue Mound (Road), back to 68th and back to the shrine, so it’s one of our biggest activities there.”
Every year since 1983, Roses for Our Lady has been invited to attend the Sunday Mass at Festa Italiana, followed by a procession throughout the Summerfest grounds. Members of Roses for Our Lady pray the rosary and sing hymns during the procession and distribute hundreds of blessed rosaries.
Wdowczyk said she believes “spiritual hunger” attracts people to Roses for Our Lady.
“We have the Benediction, we have the rosary, we have the processions, we have the prayers, we also have the Holy Hour once a month at the seminary for vocations every second Sunday of the month with Fr. Don,” she explained. “I think people are hungry for it. They want this prayer … this is just what they were brought up with and they just love the prayer attitude and that’s what they like and that’s what they keep coming back for.”