Rosary quest links generations at CBC High School

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In a literal sense, the addition of 150 rosaries barely ranks as a proverbial drop in the bucket, just 1.5 percent toward a goal of 10,000.

But figuratively, it signifies so much more, linking generations and symbolizing the motto of Christian Brothers College High School: "Men for tomorrow, brothers for life."

So it was that "men for tomorrow" currently at the school recently met up with their "brothers" from CBC's Class of 1953, celebrating the rosary quest and their nascent part in it. They contributed 150 rosaries to the goal set by CBC Hall-of-Famer Norb Butz, a larger-than-life, gregarious and well-liked '53 alum who passed away about a year ago — on May 20 — 6,000 rosaries short of his goal.

After Butz's death, his '53 brothers took up the quest, collecting 1,500 more. The "tomorrow" lads joined them this past month, CBC students of the present with CBC graduates of the past. The 150 rosaries — some handmade — represent merely a down payment on a project envisioned to last for years to come, with 10,000 simply the first hurdle.

"I like the multi-generation part of it," said CBC chaplain Father DePorres Durham, OP, who plans to carry on the tradition with the Class of 2017 and beyond. "The Class of '53, they want some sense that (the rosary quest) is going to continue. This is a way to let them know that the school they've come to love still embraces the core values that they did; there's some continuity. ... And it's a way to say to the young people, 'These are the people who made it possible for you to know and love CBC.'"

The rosaries are for CBC brother Msgr. Bob Gettinger, the '56 alum better known as Father Bob. He uses them in his ministries as pastor of St. Augustine Parish in the city and also sends them to a mission in Haiti. Butz and Father Bob became good friends through TEC — Teens Encounter Christ — in the 1970s.

Graduating senior Adam Wittenauer learned about the project from his grandfather Lou Salini, a '53 classmate of Butz. The vice-president of CBC's student leadership council, Wittenauer took the idea back to the current student body, which happily joined the project.

"It's cool to carry the mission forward," Wittenauer said. "Originally, we planned to do it in mission week. We got the word out and collected, like, 150ish. Then we decided, 'We can make 'em.'"

That process started just last month, after school, in Kristen Goldkamp's religion classroom, where she had chords of twine and useful "How to make a rosary" instructions downloaded from the Internet.

The handmade process is more than simply sliding store-bought beads onto a piece of string and tying off the loose ends. In CBC's case, it's tying and tying and tying some more, a slow process that requires abundant patience to tie the knots for the five mystery decades and double-knots to represent Our Father beads. That's 65 knots in all for those keeping score at home, counting each single knot and two for double knots plus the section between the crucifix and the decade beads.

At the first rosary-making session, 10 CBC students, Goldkamp and Father DePorres gathered to make the first batch of homemade rosaries. Forty-five minutes in, Wittenauer was on his second decade, while Alex Weisner was on his third, earning the nickname, "The Natural." Senior Taylor Keller brought experience to the project; he made rosaries in grade school at Sacred Heart in Florissant.

Those three, along with classmate Nolan Drake, Father DePorres and CBC publicist Patrick Walsh, met a dozen of their '53 brothers for the rosary deposit at the alums' monthly lunch gathering at Bartolino's Osteria. They shared the story of the rosary project with the older men, how Wittenauer found out about it and how long it takes to make just one: an hour and 15 minutes for the first, down to 30 minutes once they got the hang of it.

Alum Lorry Bannes told his young brothers about a machine that ties knots and makes a Rosary in 5 minutes. The catch?

"It costs $1,500," he said, with a laugh.

Bannes and the alums regaled the youngsters about life at old CBC, how they wore hot wool uniforms and marched outside rain or shine at the former military school. The youngsters shared that they're about "more than Twitter and technology," as Walsh joked.

Mostly, the young and the old enjoyed time together.

"We graduated 63 years ago!" Bannes marveled. "To have the current class pick up on this ... what a wonderful story." 

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