If it’s Monday, it’s rosary night for Mendota couples

Photo Caption: Ed Lauer, shown with his wife Roberta, started the weekly rosary group at Holy Cross Church in Mendota 13 years ago.

By: By Jennifer Willems

Editor’s note — During October, a month of rosary devotion, The Catholic Post will introduce individuals and groups in central Illinois for whom the rosary has special meaning. The Diocese of Peoria is observing a Year of the Most Holy Rosary.

By Jennifer Willems
of The Catholic Post

MENDOTA — No doubt a rosary is being prayed somewhere in the world at any moment of the day or night.

But if it’s Monday night, look to Mendota.

Since the first Monday in November 1996, a small group of couples who became acquainted through Marriage Encounter has come together to pray the rosary. They gather first in the adoration chapel of Holy Cross Church in Mendota and then reassemble at one of their homes to say another rosary.

The evening usually ends with refreshments and social time.

“Ed’s motto was always, ‘The people that pray together stay together,'” said Roberta Lauer of her husband, who got the group started on his favorite prayer all those years ago.

It worked. The group hasn’t missed a Monday — with the exception of Christmas Eve, Christmas Day or New’s Year’s Eve — in nearly 13 years.

“WHEN ED suggested it we just jumped at it,” said Janet Schmidt, who comes each week with her husband, Cliff. “It’s a priority. Nothing else gets in the way.”

“We know people need prayers — there are a lot of sick people in the world,” said Mary Ann Bruner.

One of them was Ken Stillwell of Earlville. It was his cancer diagnosis that brought the couples together to pray for his healing as he was treated for the disease that would take his life on May 1, 1997.

“It meant a lot to him, it really did,” Wilma Stillwell told The Catholic Post. “He was able to come for all but the last six weeks.”

Even during that time, th hospital at the same time they knew it was being said by their friends. “We always knew whose house they were praying at,” Wilma said.

“KEN AND Wilma always came and helped us when we were putting together letters for a meeting,” said Ed Lauer of their work in Marriage Encounter. “We had taken them on their (Marriage Encounter) weekend and we grew close.”

“When Ken got sick, we wanted to do something,” Roberta said, noting that Ed called the other couples they had met through Marriage Encounter and they turned to the Blessed Mother in prayer.

In addition to Cliff and Janet Schmidt, Gene and Mary Ann Bruner, and Wilma Stillwell, the group includes Herb and Sue Buchanan, Cliff and Gerri Sondgeroth, Paul and Yvonne Sondgeroth, Charles and Lola Burkhardt, and Norbert and Rita Weber.

“I’ve always had a strong devotion to the rosary,” Ed said. “It started at home with my parents. Every May and October we had the rosary at night. It just grew on me.”

“We followed that with our own children,” according to Roberta, who confided that they are the parents of three sons and two daughters and the grandparents of 13. “It’s got to start in the home.”

“I built a grotto in the backyard and my grandson rebuilt it” when it needed repairs, Ed said. “If I say the rosary before I go to sleep at night, I sleep better.”

THE MENDOTA rosary group has also been known to travel.
For about seven years the members would make a trip to the Shrine of St. Mary of the Fields in Hooppole to pray at the outdoor “Rolle Bolle rosary.” The Lauers still go once a month.

While a hearing difficulty keeps Ed from participating in the Monday evening gatherings on a regular basis, he is thankful that the group has stayed together.

“I think it’s wonderful,” he told The Post. “I’m so proud of them.”

Because they gather on Mondays, they usually pray the Joyful Mysteries, Wilma said. She added that even though they aren’t assigned to Mondays, the Luminous Mysteries are used from time to time.

The group prays for the church when they are at the adoration chapel, but during their second rosary they remember people who are sick, group members who may be traveling or in need of special prayer, and the children at Holy Cross School. Wilma said they are praying for the farmers now as they prepare for harvest.

“THE PEOPLE we pray for do get well — we hear that sometimes,” Lola Burkhardt said. Her husband, Charles, added that it helped a lot to know they were being prayed for during a recent illness.

“There’s such a strong feeling of faith. I think it’s that faith that’s holding us together,” Gerri Sondgeroth told The Post, while her husband cited their shared history.

“We’ve probably known most of them all our lives,” Cliff Sondgeroth said.

“We just have a special group,” Mary Ann Bruner said. “We love each other.”

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