Eva Hoblit is legally blind due to macular degeneration and she suffers from severe arthritis. Yet, the 88-year-old resident of Catholic Eldercare on Main in Minneapolis diligently maintains a faithful calling that seems impossible, given her health challenges.
Most days, Hoblit sits in her comfortable rocker by the window nimbly manipulating plastic beads and string into something that will touch lives and hearts around the world.
Hoblit makes rosaries — sometimes as many as 100 a month — that end up in the hands of the faithful in Africa, Mexico, the Philippines and even soldiers serving in Iraq.
“In 1958, I was working as a dietary worker at St. Mary’s Hospital in south Minneapolis,” Hoblit said. “Someone suggested we should make rosaries. Three of us started making them and it took on a life of its own.”
Eventually, the others dropped out, but Hoblit maintained production, churning out a rosary in about 45 minutes on a good day.
“I’ve always enjoyed doing it,” she said. “It makes me feel good because I’m doing something worthwhile to help people. I’m no good at art or games, but this is something I can do well.”
In 2000, after being declared legally blind, Hoblit was discouraged as she struggled to identify the colored beads. Then she recalled a newspaper story about a blind woman in her 90s who was still making rosaries. “This story seemed to be written for me,” she said. “I thought that if this woman could do it, so could I.” Hoblit was back in business.
Because of her limited vision, Hoblit traded her apartment in a senior high-rise for one at MainStreet Lodge, and later a room at the nursing home once she required skilled nursing care.
With finances running low, Hoblit discovered that friends and relatives were more than willing to donate funds to help her purchase plastic beads, crosses and string for her heavenly mission
“I can make one for about 13 cents,” she said. “Some people will donate $20 or $25 sometimes. Just think of the good that’s doing.”
Hoblit also credits her niece, Sharon Scott, and Peggy Thompson, Catholic Eldercare’s director of pastoral care, for encouraging her to keep using her God-given gifts.
Bolstered with a renewed sense of purpose, Hoblit put aside her worries about her vision and the severe arthritis. She began making rosaries with a passion, crafting 1,000 in a 10-month period.
She began using oval beads, rather than round ones, which were easier for her to feel and manipulate.
Five hundred of Hoblit’s rosaries went to a Wisconsin missionary, who distributed them overseas. Another 500 went to a Florida missionary for people in Mexico. One hundred fifty were made for first Communion students at St. Joseph in West St. Paul.
Eldercare staffers began requesting Hoblit’s rosaries to take back to family members and friends in Africa. “One staff member wanted one so badly he stood in my room and recited the rosary for me,” Hoblit said, still clearly moved by the young man’s faithfulness.
Hoblit’s niece visits regularly to bring more supplies and trim the excess string from Hoblit’s rosaries.
Hoblit said she enjoys her life at Catholic Eldercare. “It’s so nice. If you need a nursing home, this is the place to be.”
Hoblit said people should not worry too much about problems and challenges. “We must pray and not feel sorry for ourselves,” she advises. “Don’t worry so. If you want to do something, you can.”
Rosary production remains a solitary assignment — one woman in a rocking chair, working at a small tray table — struggling to see, using crooked fingers to help people she’ll never meet express their faith in a world desperate for more holiness. Catholic Spirit