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Leon Kennebeck in his workshop.

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Leon says he is attracted to the message of The Divine Mercy because of the extraordinary promises Jesus attaches to the praying of the chaplet, promises recorded in St. Faustina's Diary.

When Leon Kennebeck finally harvested his last field of corn and retired in 2003, he had plans to just go with the flow — literally. He and his wife, Donna, would pack up their belongings and follow the river from their native Willey, Iowa, and settle 43 miles east to Lake Panorama in central Iowa.

He'd do what the schedule of a farmer never permitted. He'd fish, he'd putter around, he'd —

We'll, he didn't really know what he'd do, other than not plant corn in spring, not harvest corn in the fall, and not have his temporal fate rest in the hands of the unpredictable Iowa weather.

Shortly after arriving at Lake Panorama, the panoramic view was so contagious it infiltrated his spiritual life. That is to say, the lifelong Catholic could see quite clearly the world as it is and what the world needs most. It's a world that needs to reconnect with God. It's a world that needs to know about God's mercy.

So how best to spend his retirement? He wouldn't just bait steel hooks. He'd also string beads and Divine Mercy images onto steel pins to fashion rosaries — lots of rosaries. He'd join a growing legion of Divine Mercy devotees. In his own way, he'd be Christ's hands and feet on this earth, a fisher of men.

The farmer turned retiree and hobbyist fisherman was — well — hooked.

"The Divine Mercy has become a big part of my wife and my life," says Leon.

Making rosaries, he says, is one way of saying thanks to God. It also is a way for him to follow Christ's call to St. Faustina to spread devotion to His Divine Mercy. Jesus told St. Faustina, "I desire to grant unimaginable graces to those souls who trust in My mercy" (Diary, 687).

Leon maintains a workshop above his garage where, link by link, he's made more than 730 rosaries.

Why make rosaries? His wife was the one who first suggested it to him as a means of combating his recurring anxiety attacks. At first, he declined, saying his fingers were too big for such small, detailed work. So Donna contacted a company and ordered rosary kits, which made the task easier. He began making rosaries in 2005.

"His anxiety attacks became fewer and fewer, and he has not been bothered with them for some time," says Donna.

Making rosaries, says Leon, is like a prayer in itself.

"I listen to the Catholic radio station out of Des Moine while I'm sitting there making my rosaries," he says. "Three o'clock every afternoon the Chaplet of The Divine Mercy is broadcast."

He sends most of the rosaries he makes to the Dominican Sisters of Mary, Mother of the Eucharist, in Ann Arbor, Mich.

"They are beautifully done, and we are very grateful to receive them," says Sister Hyacinth, who explained in a phone interview that the sisters give the rosaries away to children who attend two schools run by the sisters. They also give them away during summer missions in parishes around the country and to the young woman who attend vocation retreats hosted by the sisters.

Leon also gives his rosaries away to family and friends on special occasions, such as First Holy Communions, Confirmations, weddings, and Christmas.

Married 45 years, with nine children, Leon and Donna first learned about the message of Divine Mercy through Donna's sister several years ago. Together, they began praying the Chaplet of The Divine Mercy. Then, their parish priest, Fr. Mike Peters, introduced the Divine Mercy message and devotion to three of the churches for whom he serves as pastor.

"He made sure all three got a huge image of The Divine Mercy installed in them, and then he began preaching about Divine Mercy," says Leon, who serves as an extraordinary minister and a sacristan.

Leon, along with a few other men, now leads the praying of the chaplet before each Mass.

"What really makes me feel real good about it is when I am leading the chaplet, Fr. Peters comes out and joins us in the first pew of the church and prays along with us," says Leon. "That says a lot to me, that he's really interested in keeping this devotion going."

Leon says he is attracted to the message of The Divine Mercy because of the extraordinary promises Jesus attaches to the praying of the chaplet, promises recorded in St. Faustina's Diary.

Jesus told St. Faustina, "Encourage souls to say the Chaplet which I have given you (1541). ... Whoever will recite it will receive great mercy at the hour of death (687). ... When they say this Chaplet in the presence of the dying, I will stand between My Father and the dying person, not as the just Judge but as the Merciful Savior (1541). ... Priests will recommend it to sinners as their last hope of salvation. Even if there were a sinner most hardened, if he were to recite this Chaplet only once, he would receive grace from My infinite mercy (687). ... I desire to grant unimaginable graces to those souls who trust in My mercy (687). ... Through the Chaplet you will obtain everything, if what you ask for is compatible with My will" (1731).

Because the chaplet is prayed on ordinary rosary beads, Leon felt inspired to take his wife's advice — to grab a pair of pliers, to order steal pins and beads in bulk, and to see what happens.

"I made rosaries like that and handed them out to a few people, and they were amazed at how they turned out," Leon says.

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Marissa from Philippines - April 5,2014 - 5:00pm - Apr 5, 2014

Uncle Leon my prayer intentions are: for my eldest son who does not love us as his parents and for my husband who miss mass every sunday for almost 10 yrs now.

seving GOD - Dec 18, 2010

I am the same as many others,the gift of making custom rosaries was given to me among others but i soon learned nobody uses them anymore so now i evangelise 23/7

donna from NE - Dec 15, 2010

My father made rosaries also. Thanks for sharing.

Deb from WI - Dec 15, 2010

What an interesting and wonderful article! Thanks for sharing.

Gary L - Dec 15, 2010

Thank you Uncle Leon for your devotion. Keep up the good work.