Altar and Rosary Society provides food, fun and funds at St. John Bosco

HAMMOND – The historical significance of the Altar and Rosary Society at St. John Bosco in Hammond is not lost on its members. The group is spiritual and social and acts as a fundraising entity for the parish.
Founded 85 years ago, the Altar and Rosary Society “is steeped in history,” said Judy Tarne, vice president. 
The society is filled with women of faith who foster devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary and Jesus by praying the Rosary together and encouraging others to do the same.
Members meet at 10 a.m. to pray the rosary on the First Sunday of each month, then they attend 10:30 a.m. Mass to receive the Holy Eucharist together. “It is a really fun, beautiful, and unifying experience,” Tarne said.
The group’s primary responsibility is to provide appropriate paraments for the altar and vestments for the priests and deacons. The Altar and Rosary Society also purchases liturgical supplies such as wine, communion wafers and all candles including the Easter paschal candle. While the group is no longer responsible for seasonal decorating and weekly cleaning of the church, they pay for periodic cleaning of carpets, rugs and walls.
To make these things happen, the society hosts multiple fundraisers, which not only raise money but are a great source of fun as well.
“I just love the camaraderie with the other women, and you get to know a lot of people in the parish because we are involved in so many things,” Tarne said. “You get to know families and all the things going on at church.”
President Beckie Markwood agreed. “We love to get together,” she said. “This is such a great group of faith-filled women. You can be as involved as you want and do what you can.”
This current group enjoys baking and incorporates it into fundraising opportunities.
The society’s largest fundraiser is the Holiday Bazaar, which is held each year in November. The Altar and Rosary Society sells a myriad of homemade treats and at least 100 pounds of cookies at the bazaar. In addition to hosting a “second time around” resale shop, the society invites parishioners to sell their wares at vending tables.
The second largest fundraiser, the Spring Raffle, began on Ash Wednesday and continues until May 5. The Spring Raffle winner will be picked during the Altar and Rosary Society’s monthly meeting on May 9. Markwood noted that their goal is to raise $3,000 which is what they raised last year.
The women sold cookies and desserts during the parish’s Palm Sunday “Easter Eggstravaganza” and coordinated a raffle of gift baskets. That day’s event included “palm weaving” instruction, children’s activities, donuts and coffee sponsored by various parish groups.
The Altar and Rosary Society is also philanthropic, providing scholarships for high school students to attend the National Catholic Youth Conference every other year and creating care packages for veterans.
The society is hosting a “baby shower” to benefit the Women's Care Center of Merrillville. The gathering is April 21, from 1-3 p.m. at the parish hall, 7111 Columbia Ave. in Hammond, and participants are asked to bring shower gift items such as disposable diapers, receiving blankets, bibs and monetary donations, explained Marcie Stemp, one of the coordinators. 
“The Altar and Rosary Society has been doing this for at least 50 years,” said Stemp. “It is always a good time, with refreshments and games. People who want to donate items but cannot attend the baby shower are welcome to drop off items at the church.”
“We enjoy each other’s company, we celebrate birthdays, and we stay busy with activities,” Markwood said. “We do a lot for the parish and try to help others as much as we can.”
Father Jeff Burton, pastor, appreciates how the Altar and Rosary Society stays the course. “They continue to share their devotion to the Blessed Mother and provide care for others,” he said. “The most powerful impact is simply how they give witness to the community.”
In addition to praying the rosary regularly, the society is the primary social vehicle for seniors of the parish and provides a memorial service in November for All Souls Day, Father Burton noted.
“Over time, they stay on mission,” he explained. “I really appreciate how knowledgeable and reliable they are. They take care of things that I don’t have to worry about.”    
“We are glad to be a part of this parish family where people can find their niche and know they belong,” Markwood said.


Caption: Rose Carrillo and Hope Gonzalez assemble packages for veterans in Northwest Indiana in 2023. The St. John Bosco Altar and Rosary Society members put the care packages together every year in October. (Provided photo)