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Religious articles for others gathered

By JOANNE FOX, Globe editor
(Email Joanne)

Got an extra vestment or chalice or rosary?

Consider sharing those with Charlie Dahl, who has made it a mission to collect and distribute such items to others in need.

The Sioux City native, now residing in Minnesota, just picked up 800 rosaries for a priest in Nigeria, 25 stoles for Uganda, and a number of chalices for other African dioceses.

But that’s just a drop in the bucket for what Dahl has actually collected.

“I think I’ve gotten 62,000 rosaries so far in a six-month period,” he mused. “I’m getting 5,000 ready for that priest who will be going to Nigeria.”

Dahl’s journey from Sioux City to Minnesota has its own interesting story.

“I was born a fool on April 1, 1938,” he quipped. “My father was killed in a work accident the November before I was born. When Dad was taken away, Mother had my oldest sister Dorothy, 5, a set of triplets, 2, and my brother David, 1.”

Of those many siblings, only Mary Ellen Dahl, former long-time principal at Salix St. Joseph Grade School, is still alive and resides at Holy Spirit Retirement Home, Sioux City.

“My mother, Dorothy, developed dementia, so I brought her to Minneapolis and cared for her in the house for about 10 years. It was the best task I ever did – around the clock, but worth every peak and valley,” Dahl said. “Mother went to her heavenly abode in 1990. She did a truly remarkable job raising us.”

Bishop Mueller direction

After Dahl graduated Heelan High School in Sioux City in 1956, he was caddying for Bishop Joseph M. Mueller.

“One day, Bishop asked me what I was planning to do with my life,” he recalled. “I said, ‘Save money and go to college.’ I had once visited St. John’s in Collegeville and fell in love with it. Bishop asked me to come to his office and while there, he picked up the phone and called the abbot at the college and told him about me and said I needed to be enrolled. Bishop Mueller hung up the phone and told me to get in my car and drive up there. I couldn’t understand how I had gotten in and Bishop Mueller said, ‘You don’t want to say no to the bishop.’ That was in September and I did what he said.”

Following his 1963 graduation from St. John’s with a degree in philosophy, Dahl continued to maintain contacts with the Benedictines monks.

“I went into business for myself, as I have this desire to work whenever and how long and I wanted no buffoon to tell me to hit the road,” he said. “I am also a regular attendee at Mass at the St. Paul seminary so over time I have gotten to know many priests and am very involved with the Jesuits.”

Outreach ministries

Dahl has long been involved in outreach ministries.

“Probably some 40 of them from feeding the hungry, to prison ministry, to taking people in who are living on the rugged side of life,” he said. “I try to live a simple life so others can simply live.”

About seven months ago, Dahl decided to start collecting rosaries and called his undertaking Need for Beads.

“I send them out across the world,” he said. “There is also a need for them in the U.S., so I’ve sent like 800 rosaries to Gallup, New Mexico and distributed about 1,200 in the Archdiocese of Minneapolis.”

The biggest challenge in gathering rosaries for Dahl?

“It’s the cost of shipping,” he said. “Big lots of rosaries can cost more than $200 to send overseas. Then, on the other end, they have to pay to receive the package. So what I try to identify is people going over there to take them along. It’s time consuming, but it makes financial sense.”

Some years back, Dahl became aware of the need for vestments in other countries.

“Father Charles Lawanga from Kabale, Uganda, was at the St. Paul seminary and he educated me on the dire need for vestments. I managed to get 25 stoles and decided to start a project called Robes for the Black Robes.”

Overseas needs

Some church vessels, like chalices, are a bit more challenging to acquire, Dahl admitted.

“The Catholic League of Women had to sell their building and actually had a number of chalices made with porcelain,” he said. “I offered them to some U.S. priests, but they said canon law says chalices must be gold or silver. So, I send those overseas because I know African priests would relish taking chalices like that.”

Dahl has been humbled by the response of those on the receiving end. One letter, from Dr. Emmanuel Uppamthadathil, professor of Philosophy at Suvidya College in Kamataka, India, addressed a letter to Dahl with: “Dear Angel Charlie,” in receipt of rosaries received.

“It is all about reaching out to marginalized and downtrodden groups to disseminate faith and education,” Uppamthadathil wrote of his experience in India. “I come face-to-face with the difficulties these people endure all through their lives. If I can do something for them, I would be very happy!”

Dahl hopes to use the internet to keep people informed about his projects and the need for religious items.

“Oh, there are so many needs, as our brother is just not the person across the street or across the city, but the person across the ocean,” he said.

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