Members of Fairport’s St. John of Rochester Parish occasionally leave their old, broken rosaries at their parish office. Although these rosaries may be tarnished and missing links or crucifixes, they are treasured nonetheless and often have a great deal of memories and sentimental value attached to them.
Once a rosary has been left at the parish office, John Rapp will stop by, pick it up and bring it to his home. There he’ll fix whatever is wrong with the rosary before returning it to the parish office, where its owner will reclaim it.
“This is something I do because I feel it should be done,” said Rapp, who belongs to St. John of Rochester. “I felt there was a need for it, and I want to encourage people to use and say the rosary as requested by Our Lady of Fatima.”
Many Catholics cherish their rosaries because they were a gift from a loved one or handed down from previous generations, Rapp said.
“If (the rosaries) are broken they don’t get used,” Rapp said, noting that a rosary is not meant to be placed in a drawer to collect dust.
For this reason, Rapp began repairing rosaries for local Catholics in September 2002. He approached five local parishes with his idea and is now the unofficial rosary repairman for his own parish, as well as St. Patrick’s Parish in Victor, St. Louis Parish in Pittsford and Fairport’s Church of the Assumption and Church of the Resurrection.
Every so often — especially around May and October — these parishes will run small announcements letting parishioners know they can bring broken rosaries to the parish offices. The announcement also asks parishioners to donate rosaries to be used for parts.
Although Rapp has heard about a number of parish groups that make new rosaries, he’s not aware of anyone else in the diocese who repairs them, a fact he’d like to change. In fact, Rapp said he’s willing to teach his craft to anyone who’s interested and committed to repairing rosaries at his or her parish.
“This is not a hobby; it’s a commitment. They’re taking on the job of repairing all the broken rosaries of their parish, not this week and next week, but on and on and on,” he said.
Rapp has repaired between 150 and 200 rosaries since he took on this commitment nearly three years ago. He said there have been instances where he’s had six rosaries to work on in his house at one time.
“When you get into repairing them, you don’t know what you’re going to be looking at from one to the next,” he said. “It’s a lot more involved than making rosaries, where you have a certain set of parts and set procedures for putting them together.”
Although there are a number of different ways a rosary can break, broken links are the most common problem Rapp sees. The solution to this problem is relatively simple, so Rapp usually brings his tools with him when he picks up rosaries. If a broken link is the only problem a rosary has, he’ll often fix it right there at the parish.
Rapp also sees many rosaries that are missing their center medals or crucifixes. Many of these rosaries can be fixed with donated parts. In the past three years Rapp has picked up several helpful techniques. For example, if all of the rosary’s beads are the same size and color but one of the Hail Mary beads is missing, he will take off an Our Father bead and place it where the Hail Mary bead should go. He’ll then find another bead of comparable size and color and put that where the Our Father bead was.
“It restores symmetry. If the Our Father beads are larger than the Hail Mary beads, then it becomes a little more difficult to deal with,” Rapp said. “If all else fails then I go to the bead store.”
Rapp learned another technique from his daughter, Kathy Cullen, who is a metalsmith. Using a special tool, he can take a paper clip and wind it up like a spring. Making a loop to attach to a center medal or crucifix then becomes a simple matter of cutting off one section of the spring, filing down the ends and pressing them together.
Rosary repair does require a set of tools, many of them easy to come by, and Rapp noted that anyone seriously interested in learning the craft of rosary repair may contact him at 585/223-5468.