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Tallmadge -- A local church is taking a hands-on approach to keeping an Easter season tradition alive.
A palm braiding class was conducted April 4 at Our Lady of Victory Church, 73 North Ave. Tables were packed in Finnerty Hall as parishioners pored over fresh palms, coaxing fronds into shapes ranging from crosses to pyramids and flowers. Some joked their fingers weren't as nimble as they once were, while others said they have to relearn the craft every year.
"Our Lady of Victory has been doing 'palm braiding' for many, many years," according to its pastor, the Rev. Michael A. Matusz. "Individuals come together during the week before Palm Sunday and create beautiful palm creations; pieces of art, which are then used in the church's environment for Palm Sunday weekend." A special focus this year was the creation of small crosses with the intention of distributing these, along with information about Holy Week and the Catholic Church, at the Tallmadge Community Expo on April 8.
In the Catholic church, Matusz says the distribution of palm branches at the beginning of Holy Week symbolizes Jesus' triumphant entrance into Jerusalem. Our Lady of Victory members planned to gather at Tallmadge Circle at 4:45 p.m. April 8 for the blessing of palms and a procession to the church for 5 p.m. Mass.
Parishioner Sue Dudek says palm braiding has been going on at Our Lady of Victory since the mid to late 1980s. "A talented artist named Ann Spagnola, who was on our Art and Enviroment Committee, would make beautiful weavings for our big cross on Palm Sunday. We asked her to teach the rest of us and she taught anyone willing to learn. Whether our group was small or large, we have had a lot of fun weaving over the years."
Katie Quick, 18, says she's participated in the annual palm braiding sessions since she was 10, usually accompanied by her father, Jeff. While her dad was absent on the recent Tuesday evening due to work obligations, Katie's fingers flew. "I like to make all the fancy things," she said, "but I don't think I can make all of them yet."
Across the aisle, Loralea Cevasco, a member of the church since 1957, concentrated on an intricate design destined for a floral display on the altar. Cevasco says she learned the art from a lady at church "years ago" and loves the tradition. Cevasco said she expected to stay up into the wee hours of the morning finishing her work since it must be accomplished while the palms are fresh.
"Over the years, we have invited several other churches to join us in keeping the art alive," Dudek says, adding, "Palm weaving is an age old tradition, and being sentimental -- yes, I would love to see the tradition continue."
Twitter: @ EllinWalsh_RPC