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 CNS Story:

TROOPS-ROSARIES Jun-29-2006 (570 words) xxxn

Chance e-mail brings help, rosaries for U.S. troops in Iraq

By Dolores Madlener
Catholic News Service

CHICAGO (CNS) -- Mary Zilligan Becker, a Chicago-area Catholic, does not view her chance encounter with a military chaplain stationed in Iraq as a mere coincidence.

In January, Becker was asked by a friend without a computer to send an e-mail for her to a priest friend, Father John Hannigan, a chaplain with the U.S. Marine Corps.

Father Hannigan, who was ordained in the Chicago Archdiocese in 1976, now has a 30,000-square-mile "parish" that reaches west from Baghdad and Fallujah to the borders of Syria and Jordan.

He lives with soldiers, sailors, Marines and Seabees. At every helicopter stop he makes or convoy ride he takes, there are more young people who want to learn about their faith, receive their first Communion or confirmation or become Catholic. He told Becker about the enormous spiritual needs of men and women facing pain, hardship or possible death each day.

Becker, who with her husband runs an online business called Seat of Wisdom Book and Gifts that sells religious items, turned out to be the perfect person to contact the chaplain because she has been able to get him the religious supplies he needs.

In an interview with The Catholic New World, newspaper of the Chicago Archdiocese, she said she found out that the budget of the U.S. military archdiocese cannot meet all the needs of chaplains "in the trenches." She said they essentially become proud beggars for their desert flocks' spiritual nourishment.

Father Hannigan's first request was for 1,000 rosaries. His appeal was specific: rosaries that were tan-colored, corded, with black plastic crucifixes. Beaded rosaries can reflect light, or clink at the wrong moment, which is not a good thing on a battlefield, he said. The chaplain told Becker that soldiers also like to wear them around their necks.

Becker, a member of Infant Jesus of Prague Parish in Flossmoor, reached out to rosary-makers and members of pro-life and prayer groups. She initially shipped 500 rosaries and continues to collect them.

The chaplain's next request was for copies of the Baltimore Catechism and the Catechism of the Catholic Church. Becker ordered the books and began a campaign of her own to pay the nearly $5,000 cost of the books and the $800 shipping fees. In a June letter to Becker, the chaplain said that once the next shipment arrived he would have plenty of copies of the catechism, but he said he could still use rosaries, medals, prayer books and books about the saints.

On the Web site www.seatofwisdom.net, people donate specific religious items to the soldiers. They can choose religious books, scapulars or holy medals.

Becker has also put her five sons, ages 11-18, to work on the project. The boys pack and label the boxes and help her get them to the post office where it takes about an hour to process them even though she only ships 10 boxes at a time.

The mom turned shipping clerk said her sons could become soldiers or priests, but in the meantime they're learning a lesson for any walk in life.

- - -

Editors: More information about helping with this project is available online at: www.seatofwisdom.net, or by writing to: Seat of Wisdom, 1247 Oakmont Ave., Flossmoor, IL 60422. Notes also can be sent directly to: Father John T. Hannigan, 7th Marines Regiment HQ Co/Unit 41505 FPO/AP 96426-1505.


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