Disadvantaged people across the country will benefit from the hobby of one young man from Hamburg. James Lyon, a junior at Canisius High School in Buffalo, has a passion for making one-decade rosaries, which he sold to raise funds to send himself and fellow students on a series of service immersion trips.
"I always enjoyed making crafts," said Lyon, 16. "Back in third grade I made rosaries, but they were just small ones. Over the summer, I was up in my attic and I found the old beads and crosses and wire that I used to use, and I decided to try and make one." He approached his pastor at SS. Peter & Paul Parish in Hamburg, offering to use the rosaries he made over the summer to benefit their outreach program. He then brought the idea to Canisius, amped it up with the help of 25 friends, and made close to 500 strings of beads.
Lyon gave his helpers a quick instruction on how to make the rosaries, then spent a solid hour working and discussing the spiritual impact they would have.
"While they were doing it, there were conversations. There were different faiths there as well, asking what are rosaries to us as Catholics and how do you say a rosary. It was more than just making them. It was great conversation and community there that night," said Christopher M. Pitek, director of Student Formation at Canisius. "It shows you, even with all the hustle bustle with these guys with grades and athletics and everything, faith can still be a centered conversation piece, that what we were hoping for."
The students, all juniors preparing for immersion trips, sold the rosaries to their family members, friends, alumni of the school, and throughout their parishes, raising about $3,500. The items became pretty popular. A local funeral parlor asked for some. The mother of alums asked for 100 to take on a mission trip to Nicaragua.
"It reached more than our internal community. It reached our outside community, our Catholic community of Buffalo, which is kind of neat," said Pitek.
The funds will be placed into a scholarship pool for the current class and used to offset the cost of service trips, which may run as high as $800 per student.
The Canisius service immersion program, known as the Companions Program, follows the Ignatian call to service by taking juniors into impoverished cities to meet with and aid the poor, the hungry and the tired. Lyon will be traveling to Cincinnati this June to work with Our Daily Bread, a hospitality ministry dedicated to providing warm meals, social services and a supportive environment.
Lyon, who competes on the school's mock trial, speech and debate team, is no stranger to service trips.
"I've definitely grown more in my faith by doing previous service trips," he said. "With my mom, we went to Okolona, Miss. twice. We went to Detroit and Chicago. We went to each of those places for a week with a group called the Franciscan Common Venture. You do all sorts of service there. It's interesting to see because you meet all kinds of people. When you think you understand the world and you think you understand how things work, there's just so many different perspectives you can see on the trip."
Through his work, Lyon has learned how complex the world is and how circumstances can turn kings into paupers.
"You shouldn't judge people by how they look or where they live because you don't really know the person," he said. "I've definitely learned about a lot of people and have a lot of respect for the people that I worked with."