Rose’s Faith Still Flowering
February 18, 1995
by Virginia Kimball – Sun Correspondent
TEWKSBURY – Even in death, Rose Kennedy’s love of the Catholic faith goes on.
Rosary beads made from the pink roses that were placed near Rose’s casket at the wake held at the family compound on Cape Cod were made by Rogers Street residents Pauline and Bernard Barbieri.
These specially handmade rosaries are treasured by family members because of the sentimental and spiritual value, Bernard says.
When the couple received Rose Kennedy’s pink roses, they regarded the task a great honor, he said.
“We feel it is quite an honor because of the stature of the woman. She was true to her faith, to God, and all the way through life she never faulted (from it)” he added.
“It’s ironic that even in her death, her faith is still out there. Somehow, I feel she is a part of all this,” Pauline said.
The Barber rosaries can be ordered through funeral homes when people are making arrangements for deceased relatives. They can also be ordered directly from the Barbieri’s.
When Pauline and Bernard received the fresh pink roses from the Rose Kennedy Funeral, they went right to work in making the family heirloom.
It is a delicate procedure that involves heating flowers to a powder, then mixing the powder with liquid to make a paste. Each bead is rolled from the paste, set with a silver cap on each side and strung on a metal post to form the chain of the rosary beads.
The exact technique in making the rosaries is a family secret, one which Pauline originally learned from the Sisters of Charity, also known as the Grey Nuns in Canada.
Pauline regards the craft as a special kind of ministry. Often she will say prayers as she puts the rosary beads together.
In this case, the rosary was made for the family as part of the funeral arrangements. It is now at the family compound, held by Rose’s devoted personal aide, Dolores Stevens, according to Kennedy press secretary Scott Ferson.
The rosaries can bring people to faith or create family closeness. Whatever the reason, it often is not known until a later date. “I have found that there is always a reason.” If it is meant to be, it will be,” Pauline said.
She saw connections already in the eulogy for Rose offered by her son, Sen. Edward M. Kennedy. “He said that her prayers would sustain them even in her death. She truly was the perfect rose,” Pauline noted.
“And, of course, we know Rose’s great devotion to the Blessed Mother was related to the rosary,” Bernard said.
In the past, during the process of making the flower paste, the color usually turned black from heating. The Barbieri’s have since invented a way to preserve the flower’s original color.
Each rosary takes about 2 1/2 hours to complete over a two day process. One small flower can make an entire rosary, Pauline says.
Pauline says she was inspired to take up the almost lost art of making flower rosaries while praying to Mary with her rosary, which was made of flowers from her father’s funeral. It now has become the family’s home business mixed with a religious meaning, she said.
Bernie, a former salesman, lends a hand at rolling each bead and lining them up in a tray at Pauline’s elbow. She then carries out the tedious task of stringing the silver or gold capped beads and attaching other decorative pieces such as a cross.
Flower rosaries are often given as gifts for First Communion, a wedding, or other special events.
“But this is the highest we’ve ever gone. You can’t get much higher than the president’s mother,” Pauline.