St. Joseph, Martinsburg: home of the buckeye rosary tradition


While Ohio is popularly known as the Buckeye State, the Show-Me State has its own connection to this unique tree.

For more than 30 years, Jan Schaefer has been the creator of the annual buckeye rosary at St. Joseph Church and school in Martinsburg.

Her handmade prayer beads are raffled off each October in the grade school in honor of the month dedicated to the Rosary.

“I started in 1989 with the encouragement of the principal at the time, and the sisters of the Most Precious Blood,” explained Mrs. Schaefer. “There is a buckeye tree on the parish grounds, and the kids each year at the school would pick up the nuts and then let me know to come and get them.”

Mrs. Schaefer creates just one rosary a year out of the brownish-yellow nuts. It hangs in a prominent spot on a bulletin board for all to admire.

That rosary is then raffled off at the end of October to one lucky school kid.

“There is a tradition at the school in October where the students are asked to pray for someone,” she said. “They then can put their name and the person they prayed for on a slip of paper and enter it into the raffle.”

Mrs. Schaefer, who is a 1974 graduate of St. Joseph School, added that she usually tries to have the rosary finished and up on display at the school by the first week in October.

Principal Michelle Hombs said the students look forward to this tradition every year.

“The students like how our faith and something from nature, the buckeyes, are incorporated together,” she told The Catholic Missourian. “They also enjoy picking up the buckeyes from our last buckeye tree in front of the parish’s rectory.”

Mrs. Schaefer’s said it takes her anywhere from two or three days to two weeks to actually make the rosary, depending on what is going on in her own personal life.

“I pick out the smooth buckeyes and drill the holes in them, and then I thread nylon cord through them with a big needle,” she said. “If I sat down and did it straight through, it would take several hours.”

As the Month of the Rosary came to an end, all 52 students in kindergarten through eighth grade gathered for the big drawing.

“After the name is drawn, the whole school prays for that student and the person the student had been praying for,” said Mrs. Schaefer.

Mrs. Hombs is no stranger to this buckeye tradition. Not only is she in her fifth year as principal, she previously taught at the school and was a student in the early 1980s.

She has fond memories of this St. Joseph tradition and said many lessons come from the buckeye beads.

“Not only does it encourage the students to think and pray for others, it also gets them excited about our faith,” she said. “It provides additional opportunities for our students to personally pray for those who are in need of our prayers. It is one of the things the students look forward to each year.”

Mrs. Schaefer offered a similar sentiment.

“The Rosary is a beautiful prayer and a great way to meditate on Jesus’ life,” she stated. “To me, when you pray the Rosary, you can think of so many things like family and difficult situations in your life.

It’s just a good feeling to know that when you pray the Rosary, you can pray for the concerns of the world,” she said. “As we know today, there is no shortage of prayers needed for the world in which we need.”