Facebook IconInstagram IconSpotify

The gift of Alleluia Baskets

By Sister Rose Mercurio
Sister Rose Mercurio volunteers to make baskets  with the nonprofit, Alleluia Basket program in the St. Louis area.  She is seen holding a basket she just created in this photo.

I was professed as a School Sister of Notre Dame (SSND) in August 1963. It was a blessed day, and I could only dream of the many children I would be fortunate enough to teach in the years to come. Little did I realize the other ways I would be called to serve God’s people in my future.

Villa Gesu in St. Louis, our former retirement home for aged and sick sisters, was building a much-needed 100-plus bed addition. There was a need for nurses and somehow the Spirit led me to answer that call. In 1971, I became a registered nurse ready to serve sisters at the Villa. Since then, my life has been gifted in ways I could never have imagined. Most recently, I served as a Parish Nurse and Pastoral Associate for 19 years, and then went to The Sarah Community in Bridgeton, Missouri, as Director of Spiritual Care.

From 2010 through 2020, I was fortunate enough to be a part of a missionary team to Belize for two weeks each year. During those weeks, it was a real gift to visit the villages, work in the schools and to assist the aging population. The pandemic stopped those opportunities for now, but the dream is to be able to resume trips in the future.

In March 2020, I retired from “active” ministry. I prayed to be able to fill my days with service that would be meaningful. I knew of a project I could get involved in, the Alleluia Baskets program. I contacted Karen Mesler, an eighth grade Parish School of Religion (PSR) teacher at All Saints in St. Peters, Missouri, and founder of the program, she welcomed me with open arms. The Alleluia Baskets program began in 2004. Karen wanted a service program to emphasize Easter and its importance for her students, so they decided to create Easter baskets and give them to the parish’s St. Vincent DePaul Society. The 12 students began bringing in items, and they had enough to fill 25 baskets. The next year, they filled 50 baskets and then 87 the following year.

In 2007, Karen was invited to expand the program parish-wide. It has expanded to parishes throughout the United States with people sending in monetary donations as well as toys, stuffed animals, books, blankets, socks, bubbles, art supplies, coloring books, etc.

The benefit of outreach efforts, Alleluia Baskets is able to be shared with:

  • children birth to 18 years
  • senior citizens
  • unwed mothers
  • children in homeless shelters
  • women in counseling centers
Alleluia Baskets has store where volunteers come in and pick and choose items to build baskets. This imagge is of the store room and the tables full of donated items ready to go in baskets.

As we are shopping for items, sorting them, packing them away and then filling the baskets, I think of the children who will receive them and the joy they will bring to their hearts. I know that they are children who would otherwise not receive anything for Easter. There is a strong team of volunteers who help Karen make this program a reality. No task is too small or unworthy of being done for this group.

The request for Alleluia Baskets has increased by leaps and bounds. In 2021, 7,025 Alleluia Baskets were distributed. The projection for 2022 is 10,000 baskets. Each day, communications are received making that estimate more and more a reality.

As we shop for bargains, work a fundraising trivia or golf tournament, unpack donations, sort through bags containing all sorts of treasures and begin to assemble individually unique baskets, our motto is, “Bringing a smile to children’s faces on Easter morning.”


To learn more, visit:


Want to learn more?


School Sisters of Notre Dame

320 East Ripa Avenue

St. Louis, MO 63125

Phone: 314-561-4100



© 2022 School Sisters of Notre Dame