Bat-Rosary Signals Prayer in a Dark Night
Greensboro, NC- If Batman were Catholic, you’d no doubt find this in his utility belt. However, this Batman-themed Rosary can be found on the wall of the cafeteria of St. Pius X Catholic School in Greensboro, NC. The Rosary was designed for graduate, Matthew Basel. Matthew was recently diagnosed with cancer- Ewing’s Sarcoma. Matthew is now a sophomore in college, but St. Pius does not forget its own.
Putting faith into action, Monsignor Anthony Marcaccio, Principle Anne Knapke and Guidance Counselor Lori Warren put their heads together to do something for Matthew. After visiting Matthew in the hospital and seeing a banner made by his High School, Bishop McGuinness, Monsignor enlisted Mrs. Warren to come up with something from St. Pius, his elementary and middle school. In the past the school has addressed similar situations with group payers and the like, but this time they created something that went beyond a one-time event or banner.
Mrs. Warren turned to Cindi DeVillers, one of the 4th grade assistant teachers, because of her creativity. Mrs. DeVillers thought about the Rosary project that the 3rd grade does every year. Students make a Rosary out of different objects from paper clips to bottle caps. Why not make a Rosary with a theme that was specific to Matthew. Mrs. DeVillers and Mrs. Warren turned to Laura Sexton, a 2nd grade assistant teacher and close friend of the Basel family, for ideas for the theme of the Rosary. After considering Matthew’s favorite sports teams, Ms. Sexton reminded them that Matthew is a huge fan of super-heroes and the Arrow TV Show. His mother hand painted insignias of Superman, Batman, the Flash, Green Lantern and Green Arrow for his college dorm room.
That was all Mrs. DeVillers needed. She quickly chose Batman- protector of Gotham City and its people. Plus, the black and yellow of the Bat-Symbol were the colors of the school’s sports teams. Mrs. Warren added, “Matthew is our super-hero. What he’s going through takes strength and courage.” Rosary is a form of prayer that utilizes a string of beads with each bead representing a single prayer in the sequence. The prayers that compromise the Rosary are in sets of 10 “Hail Mary’s” preceded by an “Our Father” and followed by a “Glory Be.” Mrs. DeVillers designed and produced the entire Rosary by herself. She paid special attention to the “Glory Be” pieces, which are an “M”for Matthew in the style of Robin’s chest emblem. The main “beads” are the classic Bat-symbol.
It occurred to another 4th grade assistant teacher, Terry Drosback, that the Bat-Rosary could be incorporated into Rosary Month- October. Everyday at lunch, the 3rd, 4th and 5th grade says half a decade of the rosary. They turn the lights out and reverently recite the prayers.
Due to the effect of chemotherapy and radiation treatments on his immune system, Matthew has not been able to see the Rosary in person at the school. He will be presented with a plaque showing the Rosary and students holding his picture in front of it.
While the project was designed to have a positive impact on Matthew, the experience has left its mark on the students at St. Pius as well. Early on, they missed a couple days of saying the Rosary and some students started asking what happened. Mrs. Knapke explained to me that it was clear that the kids were concerned not because they were missing part of a routine, but because they felt that Matthew was not getting the prayers he needed. Mrs. Knapke also spoke about the project in terms of the students being able to relate easily to Batman and his self-sacrifice as part of the Christian ethic. She added, “It’s always good when you can engage students with something they’re interested in.”
Batman may not be part of the curriculum, but the theme of helping others and protecting one’s people resonate with the staff at St. Pius X. Learning the importance of charity as part of the Catholic faith is an integral component to the curriculum. Students contribute monthly to different charities throughout the school year, most significantly to the school in their sister parish in Mañazo Peru. The Batman-themed Rosary is much closer to home, and this has made the experience more real for the students. Matthew is not a distant individual, but someone with whom they’ve made a connection. And he’s shown the students strength and courage in a dark night in his life, and there is no doubt that this part of the experience has been just as meaningful.