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BEECH GROVE—“I pray the rosary.”
Holy Name School eighth-grade students in Beech Grove are proudly wearing T-shirts they decorated with this message.
They made the T-shirts after watching a “YouTube” video during religion class about a teenager who promoted his Catholic faith as well as his devotion to Jesus and Mary in this way.
Benedictine Sister Mary Nicolette Etienne, a member of Our Lady of Grace Monastery in Beech Grove and the religion teacher at Holy Name School, said she enjoys teaching students to pray the rosary as part of their vocation to know, love and serve God.
She makes handmade rosaries, a skill that she learned last March from her mother, St. Paul parishioner Kay Etienne of Tell City, who taught her the Marian prayer during her childhood.
Sister Nicolette gives one handmade rosary to a Holy Name student every week to promote this devotion.
Father Stanley Pondo, the pastor of Holy Name of Jesus Parish, blesses the students’ rosaries after school Masses.
Sister Nicolette displays dozens of rosaries and 10 Marian images on a bulletin board with information about some of the Mother of God’s many titles throughout the world.
During religion class on Jan. 13, Holy Name eighth-grade students said their teacher inspires them to pray because she has a strong faith and deep love for Jesus.
Ashley Kedra said she drew large, colorful letters on her T-shirt with bright markers because she wants to make a bold statement about her Catholic faith.
“Praying the rosary is important to me because it’s a way to talk to God and Mary,” Ashley said, “and whoever you’re praying for or whatever you’re praying for, I think it helps.”
Ben Coons drew a cross on his T-shirt next to the words.
“I’m Catholic,” Ben said, “and I want other people to know about God and the rosary. It really calms me to pray the rosary because I know that God is listening. I’ve been praying to God for so long that I know he’s there.”
Jamaica Hayden said she learned how to pray the rosary in the second grade when each student made a rosary while preparing for first Communion.
“Ever since then, we have prayed the rosary,” Jamaica said. “It helps me get closer to God and makes me feel closer to his mother, Mary. We pray the rosary a lot. On Thursdays, we go to [eucharistic] adoration and pray the rosary. It helps us understand our faith a little better.”
Taylor Burger said her friends who are not Catholic don’t understand why she prays the rosary.
“I play soccer and some of the kids wonder why I even care about it,” Taylor said. “I tell them that it’s how I grew up and how I trust God. … I think it’s a form of prayer so God can call you, and Mary can help you through your troubles.”
Josh Cannaday said he recently prayed the rosary for a cousin who was very sick with cancer.
“I think the guy in the video was more interested in the rosary than most people are,” Josh said. “He wanted everyone else to know about the rosary, and that when you pray the rosary you become closer to God. If more people do pray, then God is with us more of the time.”
Tristan Morphew said he likes to pray.
“I think when you’re praying you feel more comfortable,” he said, “and you feel like something is coming around and embracing you. Like with the rosary, you feel like it might be a part of you somehow. Especially when it’s blessed, you feel like you’re doing something that’s important, and you’re doing something that doesn’t only just help you. It helps others. It’s not only that I want to get other people to pray the rosary. I want other people to know that I pray the rosary, too.”
Tristan said his teacher inspires him to be faithful because, as a religious sister, she promises to live a life of prayer.
“It inspires me that nice women like her take so much time out of their lives to pray and pray,” he said. “It just shows that she wants to go to heaven like all of us.”
During the lunch break, Sister Nicolette said she has been a Sister of St. Benedict for 24 years and a teacher for 25 years. A few years ago, she felt called to learn more about Marian devotions.
“I feel like I know and love God so much more now than I ever have in my entire life,” Sister Nicolette said. “I love that I am continuing to grow in my faith. I think the rosary has helped me to get more in touch with my relationships with Mary, our Blessed Mother, and her son, Jesus.”
She asked her sisters to donate their extra rosaries for a classroom display.
“Every rosary is so unique and so beautiful,” Sister Nicolette said. “I’ve given several away because sometimes the students become attached to a certain rosary. At the end of the school year, I allow them to take one if they want it.
“I just fell in love with the devotional part of the Church, and I don’t want my students to miss out on that,” she said. “It seems like the older I get, the more devotional I have become. I love adoration, and I love that my students are learning about the practice of praising God in adoration and by praying the rosary.”
Sister Nicolette said she is pleased that her students are willing to pray the rosary.
“They love it,” she said. “They love to come in and pick a rosary off the [bulletin] board and pray. I teach grades four through eight, and all my students enjoy doing that. I have students who tell me all the time that it’s so calming to be able to walk in the classroom and pray even a decade of the rosary.”
During spring break last year, she spent three days with her mother in Tell City learning how to make rosaries.
“Ever since then, I’ve been making rosaries every day,” Sister Nicolette said. “I love that it’s a gift that my mother gave me. I think that’s wonderful because the Blessed Mother is so important in my life, and it’s important to me that my mother taught me how to do this.
“When my mom and I sit down and make rosaries, a whole new level of peace and calm comes into both our hearts,” she said. “And what do we have in the end? We have a beautiful gift that we can give to people to encourage them to pray.” †