By Christie L. Chicoine
CS&T Staff Writer
SPRINGFIELD – Samuel Forlano of Holy Cross Parish in Springfield, Delaware County, has crafted 6,000 rosaries in the past 66 years.
He said it takes him about two hours to make a rosary from straight wire and about 15 minutes to construct one from cord.
“The satisfaction that I get from making rosaries is that I am working for our Lady,” said Forlano, 89. “It’s also nice to know of others’ devotion to the rosary, and it is special to me when I see fellow parishioners and especially our parish priests and pastors over the years using a rosary I made for them, and hearing them say, ‘I am praying for you, Sam.'”
The rosary project began in 1943 while Forlano, a technical sergeant in the U.S. Army, was stationed in the South Pacific on an island in New Guinea during World War II. The natives there had given him seashells as a trade and he wanted to find a suitable use for the shells.
The resourceful Forlano figured a way to fashion the seashells into beads. He then cut a piece of wire, centered it at the open seam on the back of the shell and packed the seam with cotton and plaster of Paris, then repeated the process. Next, he curled the ends of the wires around a nail to form a springlike round loop, then linked the wires. A priest chaplain typically provided the centerpieces and crosses.
He sent the two rosaries he made back home to his mother and aunt.
A native Philadelphian, Forlano was raised in St. Donato Parish in the Overbrook section of the city, the third of five children – and now sole surviving child – of the late Joseph and Carmela Forlano.
His parents taught him to pray the rosary as a young boy. “It is a calming and comforting prayer,” he said. “Even if I can’t say all the prayers, just holding the rosary in my hand is a special feeling.”
He married Angeline Buscaglia in April 1946 at St. Donato Church. They shared 62 years of marriage and raised five children before she died in June 2008.
“My dear wife always had a rosary with her,” Forlano said. “In her final years, the rosary was always tucked in her hand.” For their golden wedding anniversary, he surprised her with a rosary made from gold topaz beads and gold wire.
“All of my children have rosaries I have made for them. Some have even made a rosary once or twice,” he said.
Forlano is also the grandfather of 10 and great-grandfather of one. Among the grandchildren is Father Philip M. Forlano, parochial vicar of the Cathedral Basilica of SS. Peter and Paul in Philadelphia, assigned to the Spanish Chapel, La Milagrosa.
Father Forlano said his grandfather has supplied him with rosaries since he was ordained a priest for the Philadelphia Archdiocese in 2003. Father Forlano distributes the rosaries at La Milagrosa and on hospital rounds.
After a respite, Forlano returned to his rosary hobby in 1959 by joining Our Lady of Fatima Rosary Making Club. After covering the basics with the other committee members one night a week at Holy Angels Church on Old York Road in Northeast Philadelphia, he resumed making rosaries on his own.
Among his chief clientele through the years have been missions in a multitude of countries.
Forlano never forgets the Church’s celebration of World Mission Sunday, which this year is Oct. 18. “Missions request rosaries and I am happy to make and send them,” he said.
He purchases his rosary supplies from Our Lady’s Rosary Makers in Lexington, Ky., which also distributes his finished products to the missions.
Forlano has also made rosaries for prisoners, the Scapular Guild, brides and grooms and ROTC recruits.
“After 9/11, I made some red, white and blue patriotic rosaries to pray for our country,” he said.
Forlano the “go-to” rosary repairman for family, friends and anyone who asks.
He prays the rosary every night. “I keep it in my hand as I go to sleep,” he said.
CS&T Staff Writer Christie L. Chicoine may be reached at 215-587-2468 or firstname.lastname@example.org.