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Bettina Strauss, left, a parishioner at Annunciation in Webster Groves, talked with Libby Rohlfing, a parishioner at St. Peter in Kirkwood, while gathered to make Miraculous Medal bracelets May 13 at Rohlfing’s home in Kirkwood. Lynn Stewart and Joyce Lavin stood and picked out items for bracelets. The bracelets are part of Rohlfing’s Wear & Give ministry where people wear the Miraculous Medal bracelets and eventually give them to others.
Bettina Strauss, left, a parishioner at Annunciation in Webster Groves, talked with Libby Rohlfing, a parishioner at St. Peter in Kirkwood, while gathered to make Miraculous Medal bracelets May 13 at Rohlfing’s home in Kirkwood. Lynn Stewart and Joyce Lavin stood and picked out items for bracelets. The bracelets are part of Rohlfing’s Wear & Give ministry where people wear the Miraculous Medal bracelets and eventually give them to others.
Photo Credit: Jacob Wiegand

Wear & Give bracelet ministry encourages devotion to Our Lady through everyday evangelization

Libby Rohlfing wears her faith on her wrist.

And then she gives it away.

Cathy Lien, a parishioner at St. Peter in Kirkwood, made Miraculous Medal bracelet May 13 at the home of Libby Rohlfing in Kirkwood.
Photo Credits: Jacob Wiegand
For a year and a half, Rohlfing, a parishioner at St. Peter in Kirkwood, has been making bracelets featuring the Miraculous Medal and sharing her devotion to the Blessed Mother through her Wear & Give ministry.

She drew close to Mary as she found her way back to the Catholic Church. After going on her first ACTS retreat in 2019, several women on the retreat continued to meet regularly afterward, choosing the name “Mary’s Mantle” for their group.

When Jesus felt far away, “Mary came and was just with me. She really brings Him to you,” Rohlfing said.

In 2021, the group consecrated themselves to Jesus through Mary, using the guide “33 Days to Morning Glory” by Father Michael Gaitley, MIC. Soon after, they took a field trip to the National Shrine of the Miraculous Medal in Perryville, Rohlfing’s first visit.

“I had a really personal spiritual, physical, emotional experience with Mary when I was there, and her bringing Jesus and the Holy Spirit to me,” Rohlfing said. “It was an amazing, life-changing event.”

She went to the gift shop and bought a Miraculous Medal necklace for herself and a couple to share with her mom and sister. She wore hers every day until she was prompted to give it to someone who seemed to need it more. She bought another; she gave it away. Repeat. Repeat.

She pivoted to bracelets, purchasing several from jewelry-maker and fellow Mary’s Mantle member Angie Smith, wanting to have enough on hand to gift to others. Soon, she was giving them away faster than Smith could make them, so Rohlfing decided to learn the craft herself.

Libby Rohlfing hugged her mother, Mary Beth Checkett, while a group was gathered at Rohlfing’s house to make Miraculous Medal bracelets May 13 in Kirkwood. Next to the mother and daughter were: Angie Smith, Lisa Peters, Cathy Lien and Lynn Stewart. All the women are parishioners at St. Peter in Kirkwood.
Photo Credits: Jacob Wiegand
Rohlfing and her 83-year-old mother, who lives with her, start their days at the dining room table, stringing beads into bracelets. The supplies are a semi-permanent fixture of the table now, so the two can continue making bracelets with pockets of free time throughout the day. Her fellow Mary’s Mantle ladies come by to help sometimes, and another prayer group — BMW, or Bracelets, Mary and Wine — meets once a month to help build up the stash.

The idea of the ministry is to wear a bracelet to keep Mary close to you, then listen to the Holy Spirit’s promptings to give the bracelet away. On May 13, about 15 women gathered around Rohlfing’s table and kitchen island, stories of bracelet encounters flowing as they created more.

Bettina Strauss, a friend of Rohlfing and parishioner at Annunciation Parish in Webster Groves, brought several to share with friends on a girls’ trip to Las Vegas. A few days later, she got a text message from a woman who had received a bracelet, passed on by one of the friends, letting Strauss know how meaningful it was as she continued recovery from an addiction.

“It’s an unexpected joy,” Strauss said. “When you look at the face of someone and say, ‘the Holy Spirit wants me to give this to you,’ they’re like — ‘Me? You would give this to me?’ And you see it, you see — somebody cares about me, somebody wants to give me some inspiration. And then the stories start flowing.”

Rohlfing estimates that in the year and a half since she started Wear & Give, they’ve made and given away between 2,000-3,000 bracelets. She keeps a basket of them stocked on her front porch so friends can grab more. They’ve started making men’s bracelets and kids’ sizes, too.

Priests at St. Peter bless the Miraculous Medals before they’re put onto the bracelets. The colorful beads come from various stores, but the men’s bracelets are primarily made from wooden olive tree beads sourced from Bethlehem. People have given them to their children and grandchildren as they go off to college, friends in far-flung countries, people next to them in the pew or on the corner of the street.

“It’s a way to evangelize,” Strauss said. “It’s a way to start the conversation. It’s a way to show care from the Catholic Church…and it spreads the kind of joy and message that we want to bring everyone closer to Him.”

The bracelets have given Lisa Peters the courage to bring up faith in ordinary situations. She was recently talking with a tailor while having a dress altered and learned that the tailor’s husband had just been placed on hospice. She offered her a bracelet and let her know she would pray for her, leading to a deeper conversation.

“It gives you an opportunity to talk to a perfect stranger about your faith in a way that is not threatening to them,” Peters said.

While the bracelets have ended up across the country and oceans, Rohlfing hopes to spread the bracelet-making ministry to other groups and parishes around the archdiocese. “It’s not rocket science, and there’s no patent on it,” she said. “It’s just an idea that you can spread to other people.”

Julie Gau, Rohlfing’s childhood friend and fellow Mary’s Mantle member, has seen the ministry grow from the first bracelet through “Libby being obedient to the promptings of the Holy Spirit,” she said. “It’s so beautiful to see her journey with Mary, because her journey with Mary has given me a deeper appreciation of Mary, too.”

Once, Gau felt a tug to strike up a conversation with the woman next to her on a plane and give away one of the bracelets on her wrist. The woman shared that she was trying to learn more about her faith in the wake of her husband’s death.

“You don’t know what people are going through. But this sparks that conversation, and then they start to share, and that can be healing. That’s the Holy Spirit, 100%,” Gau said. “We are trying to spread this so that people can know that God is with us all the time, and His mother is supporting us, always wrapping us up in her mantle of love and peace and grace and comfort and courage.”


>> The Miraculous Medal

In November 1830, the Blessed Mother appeared to St. Catherine Laboure, a Daughter of Charity of St. Vincent de Paul, and asked that she have a medal made. The medal shows Mary standing on a globe with a snake under her feet and rays extending from rings on her fingers. Around the edge is inscribed “O Mary conceived without sin, pray for us who have recourse to thee.” On the back, there is a cross interlocked with an “M,” symbolizing that Mary’s mission is that of her Son. The sorrowful hearts of Jesus and Mary are at the base, and 12 stars surround the back to symbolize the 12 tribes of Israel, 12 apostles and all who follow in their footsteps.

The National Shrine of Our Lady of the Miraculous Medal is located in Perryville. To learn more or plan a visit, visit amm.org.


>> Wear & Give

If you’re interested in learning more about the Wear & Give ministry, or want to learn how to make the Miraculous Medal bracelets with your own group or community, email [email protected], [email protected] or call the St. Peter parish office at (314) 966-8600.


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