When this small Catholic community faced a Palm Sunday palm supply crisis, they took a can-do approach. As a result, the cash-strapped rural parish has developed a niche fundraising project that combines faith, friendship, community and a positive attitude.
A decade ago St Mary’s Catholic Church in Young, NSW, couldn’t get the palms they needed to celebrate Palm Sunday. Palm Sunday is on the last Sunday of Lent and the beginning of Holy Week.
Critical to the liturgy is the blessing and distribution of palm fronds to the congregation. The palm fronds link, of course, to the Gospel stories of Jesus returning to Jerusalem to public acclaim.
In his Gospel, John describes the scene; “They took palm branches and went out to meet him, shouting, “Hosanna!” “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!” “Blessed is the king of Israel!” John 12:13
Palm Sunday without palms was unthinkable
In the Gospels, and the event is mentioned in all four, Jesus entered Jerusalem riding a young donkey. Waving the palms and laying them in the path Jesus rode was to pay homage and show respect for the Messiah.
Yet, the Jesus so exalted on Palm Sunday, was brutally tortured and crucified on the Friday of the same week. A week after Palm Sunday, Christ rose from the dead on the first Easter Sunday.
It was unthinkable for the faithful of St Mary’s that Palm Sunday looked like having no palms. In particular the parish wanted the small crosses made from individual palm fronds. The usual supplier had none and the parish priest turned to parishioner Sharon Hamill for help.
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Even the fumble fingered could help
A warm and genial lady Sharon turned out to be literally the answer to the priest prayers. In her typical, practical, no-fuss way, Sharon took a palm cross from a previous year and pulled it apart to see how it was made. An avid sewer, knitter, and crafter, she announced that it was “pretty simple”.
Sharon soon gathered other parishioners for a series of working bees to ensure St Mary’s would have palms aplenty for Palm Sunday. She got everyone involved in the palm collecting, frond cutting, cross folding enterprise. There were no excuses for the fumble fingered, Sharon got them making cuppas and slices to fuel the community effort.
An unexpected fundraiser
She estimates that over the last ten years the parish have made 150,000 to 160,000 little palm frond crosses. “It’s a bit like origami, but with palm fronds instead of paper” says Sharon. Sharon reckons it takes her about 15 seconds to turn a strip of palm frond into a cross. St Mary’s parish make about 15,000 to 16,000 crosses each year.
The one-off palm supply rescue mission for their own little church has become a fundraising, friend-making, cottage industry. The parish dont even have to pay for the raw materials with palm leaves donated from all kinds of places around the area. “We get them from properties, our own palm tree on the church grounds, the local bank has some and the word spreads that we can use them.” says Sharon Hamill.
The little enterprise has become an unexpected but very welcome fundraiser for St Mary’s. The hand-crafted crosses are sold to many other Catholic parishes “We even sell to some Anglican churches” says Sharon. The warm and generous spirit of the project extends to St Mary’s donating crosses to parishes that can’t afford to buy them.