Monday, April 23, 2018

Who's that on the front page of the Sunday paper? Grandpa Kallas!

Rosary a comfort for Aberdeen man who has made tens of thousands

Photos by John Davis

By Kelda J.L. Pharris
Francis Kallas' large farmer's hands, though a bit shaky, nimbly thread purple beads onto a white chord.
Ten finished rosaries lay on a white towel on a rolling bedside table. Kallas sits up straight in his overstuffed recliner, reading glasses on his nose, as he puts the beads and knots on his 11th. He started the batch the previous night. Each rosary takes about 20 minutes. He makes anywhere from zero to 10 a day.
"The rosary is the second-most powerful prayer," the 91-year-old said.
It follows only Mass.
The rosary is a Catholic devotion guided by a series of beads and knots that represent a sequence of prayers. The prayers include the "Hail Mary," "Our Father," "Glory Be" and "Apostle's Creed." Some people better know the "Our Father" as "The Lord's Prayer."
Somewhat oversimplified, a rosary is comprised of five decades, or groups of 10 beads. A "Hail Mary" is recited for each bead, and there are also other prayers that are part of the process.
As he works, the April 12 afternoon sun bathes half of Kallas' room at Aberdeen Health and Rehab in a warm glow. He watches a baseball game. The teams playing are inconsequential. His favorite team is whichever is on TV and his favorite pastime is making rosaries.
"I started," Kallas begins.
"Let’s put it this way, my mother made rosaries. Chain rosaries. My sister in Minnesota made chain rosaries and cord rosaries. In 1995, she started my wife out making 'em. I thought what the hell, I could probably do that, too."
In the past 23 years, an estimated 65,000 cord rosaries — beads on twine or rope — have been crafted by the hands of Kallas and those of his late wife, LaVere. She strung them until arthritis made the threading too difficult.
Francis Kallas has never stopped.
The rosaries are distributed all over the world. Kallas recently received a forwarded letter of thanks from the supplier of his materials — Our Lady's Rosary Makers. The letter was from a Catholic bishop serving in Papua New Guinea. In it, the bishop noted that the rosaries are well-received. With many of the people he serves being illiterate, the rosary prayers are easy to memorize, the bishop wrote.
Kallas shrugs off any concern about what so many rosaries have cost him.
"It isn't that much. I have to buy the supplies and I have to ship them."
He says a priority mail box will hold 360 rosaries. He has a nearly full box in his room. The rosaries are bundled by color. He doesn't choose the colors, but was pleased that lately he's been sent translucent beads, compared to opaque ones.
"Beads are kind of glasslike. You can see through them, I kind of like that," Kallas said.
There's a half-full Mason jar with a rainbow of beads in it on the edge of his work area.
"Once in a while the jar gets full and I make what I call Mason specials," Kallas said, holding up a multi-colored rosary.
He laughs, remembering giving one to a grandson who wore it to school like a necklace, the kind of jewelry rosaries resemble.
Kallas is a devout Catholic and a veteran, having served from 1950 to 1952 stateside doing construction and engineering. He attended a heavy machinery school. He farmed and was a "grease monkey" — his words — in the Wetonka and Leola areas. He and his wife raised 12 children and they all attended Mass every Sunday.
"On the farm, we went to Leola, Our Lady of Perpetual (Help)," Kallas said. "Everybody went to church. I never worked much on Sundays. Feed hogs, feed cattle, that's it."
Kallas was asked by staff if he cared to be his wife's roommate at Aberdeen Health and Rehab. She'd gotten very ill and had been recuperating for more than 100 days, but wasn't healthy enough to go back to the Carlyle Apartments where the couple moved in 2005. Kallas said yes. He moved in, and they enjoyed their time together, still attending church and visiting family and friends regularly.
"She improved after I got here," Kallas said.
But LaVere Kallas, 85, died in her sleep Jan. 1. Two beds, pushed together, still outfit the room. There's a brief tinge of sadness as Francis Kallas talks about his wife, but good memories and the pride he has for her keep his spirits light and cheerful as he finishes the rosary, pulling the last string very tight. He lays it among the others.
"I never feel like I’m wasting my time when I do this," Kallas said.
He doesn't remember his first rosary, but assumes he received one at his first communion decades ago. He always keeps one close.
"Oh sure, I have one in bed. At night when I can’t sleep, I pray the rosary," he said.

Saturday, April 21, 2018

Amazing Grace

The Lord has promised good to me, 
His word my hope secures!
He will my shield and portion be
as long as life endures.

I love the old hymns. I have my Grandma Joachim to thank for that, as she would play hymns on her pump organ every time I was at her house. 
It's not that we didn't sing hymns in church, but I grew up in a parish with more contemporary songs/hymns for the most part. And I love those as well! At the recent Matt Maher concert, he referenced this, playing a bit of "Here I Am, Lord," a song any Catholic about our age would recognize as a more contemporary standard in our masses. (Hearing that song on one of his former albums a few years back is, in fact, how I first discovered that Matt Maher is Catholic, which is quite rare amongst Christian singers.) He explained that although those songs are great and worthy, his new album contains references to the old hymns, that he actually learned after receiving hymnals from his Baptist and Methodist grandmothers. He also told some of the stories behind the hymns, how the writer of "Just as I Am" suffered pain so great that many days she could only move from her bed to her couch. Still, she used the talents she received from God to go beyond that pain and write one of the best known hymns in the world today. A common thread throughout these hymns as they were often the product of great suffering--another reminder that God brings beauty from ashes. My girls and I also recommend Matt's "What A Friend,"--a fun twist on "What a Friend We Have in Jesus."

If you asked me what my favorite hymn is, I would answer "How Great Thou Art." That hymn--especially the last verse--gets me every single time. I don't think I will ever be able to finish that hymn without tears running down my face, and really, I hope I never can. David surprised me with this "How Great Thou Art" and it's been in our living room, surrounded by our parents' and grandparents' wedding pictures since we moved into our living room 13 years ago.

However, in the dark days of 2012, I often found these words from "Amazing Grace" as my greatest comfort--"The Lord has promised good to me. His word my hope secures!" As I have been changing my decor in my living room, I had been wanting something with those words on it. First I had to start with the background. It had to be big--about 4' by 2 1/2'--and David's cousin Cyndi (of CB Designs--check out her website!) helped me out with that by making me a barnwood canvas. I cut my own stencils with an X-acto knife and I looked up a few tutorials on Pinterest on how to do the lettering. I thought it was done last week when I completed the words, but it needed something else. I found a flower stencil at Hobby Lobby and, while cleaning out our garage attic, I found an old lock still attached to one of the house's original doors. Now it is ready for our living room and to remind all of us of God's great promises every day, these promises so often expressed through the great hymns that have been passed down through the generations.

Thursday, April 19, 2018

Music Contest

Since impending weather caused the usual Middle School Band Contest to be cancelled, the Northwestern students performed in front of a judge at school Wednesday.
Mr. Dale Fiedler was also my judge when I was in 5th-8th grade, so it was great that my boys were able to have him, too. He is always encouraging and a great band director. As an added bonus, Mrs. Thorson offered to play for the boys, so I was able to sit and watch them perform. (It helped with my nerves a little, but I am still always nervous for them knowing how much time they have put in practicing at home.) 
Their practice paid off as Landen received a 1 for his solo, "Thrice Happy the Monarch," and Nathan received a 1+ for his solo, "Ruby."

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

State FFA

The South Dakota FFA Convention was held in Brookings this past Sunday-Tuesday. The Northwestern Area Chapter did very well with several teams and students placing in their events.
Landen left home with the goal of placing in the top 10 in Ag Mechanics and he reached his goal by placing 10th as an 8th grader.

Nathan was most excited that Landen won a drill.  I think he has plans for it, too. :)

Landen also received first place in Ag Mechanics at the Groton Career Development Event prior to state.

In its 2nd year, Northwestern Area FFA is on A Mission to Grow the Tradition and they are off to a great start!

Thursday, April 12, 2018


We celebrated Easter with both sets of grandparents and the Koenig family this year. We had a great day and the weather was even nicer than expected.

Gabe was able to meet one of the new chicks on the farm. 

Nathan, Teresa and Rachel had a 2nd annual BMX Fundraiser for Cranio Care Bears. Nathan and Teresa raced, while Rachel was in charge of selling lemonade. They were able to send $20 to help with care packages!

It wouldn't be Easter without decorating eggs, too!

Uncle Vince and Landen were happy to hide eggs for the younger kids in the backyard . . . and the trees. :)

We ended our Easter day tired, but very, very blessed!