Easter Sunday is still one week out, but the St. Francis de Sales Cathloic Church in Beckley, West Virginia and the Christian Formation class are reinforcing the meaning of the holiday through the use of gardens created by young Christian students on Palm Sunday (April 13). The Christian Formation class at the church painstakingly created an “Easter garden” of soil and moss arranged around an empty “tomb” covered by a rock that is abandoned and undisturbed by its creator.
The young parishioners will be allowed to later stand in front of their garden creations on Easter Sunday. Once there, the parishioners will be able to roll away the stones and attendees are meant to get a reminder of the meaning of Easter when they get to see the empty area behind the rocks. Around 48 Easter gardens are being created by the children. The Register-Herald.com said the St. Francis’ project for the gardens was to have children illustrate the Messiah, or Jesus Christ, conquering both death and sin.
Beckley’s Lisa Keiling, a parishioner of the St. Francis de Sales Catholic Church, organized the Easter project, which reinforces the meaning of the holiday through the Palm Sunday gardens. Discussing the project, Sister Janice Rospert stated, “It is just a beautiful art project, and we’re hoping it will help the children realize that Easter is the celebration of the central truth of our faith, that Jesus Christ, Lord and Savior, suffered, died and rose.” Sister Janice Rospert is also one of the children’s teachers. Keiling, who received her confirmation at the same church during Easter last year, is helping Sister Rospert with the Christian Formation class. Keiling got the idea after seeing it online and wanted to help children understand the true meaning of Easter. She sees the gardens as a symbol for Jesus’ sacrifice. Keiling added on the garden project, “This takes your mental picture and puts it into something you can touch, something you can see.”
The church will be holding other festivities on Palm Sunday to begin their Holy Week in the lead up to Easter Sunday. Children, adults, and parish members will line up and take part in a “Solemn Procession of the Palms,” which is described as a happy celebration of waving palm leaves, from the gymnasium to the church.
Palm Sunday for many Christians is also seen as the official celebration for when Jesus rode into Jerusalem only days before his crucifixion on a borrowed donkey. Sister Rospert exalted Jesus on this subject, as riding in on a donkey was a representation of a peaceful leader arriving in the city.
Sister Rospert also outlined the rest of the Holy Week, including Holy Thursday, the time when Christians recognize Jesus as eating the Jewish Passover meal with his disciples. Speaking on Good Friday, Rospert added, “Of course, then it’s Good Friday. It’s beautiful, it’s awesome, it’s powerful, it’s terrible.” Friday also marks the death of Jesus’ death by crucifixion by the Roman government, recognized by Christians as Jesus voluntarily giving up his life as God’s sacrifice for the sin of every human for all time.
Festivities then end on April 20 with Easter Sunday, marking the most holy day for the Christian year. For Palm Sunday, Rospert urged all Christians, no matter the denomination, to attend their services on Easter and to also bring others with them to their Mass or church. She stated, “I would encourage anything that would help open the floodgates of God’s love,” she said. “I have been invited to a Methodist service and attended.” Rospert continued, “People should invite friends to come with them to Easter Sunday services, whatever their denomination.”
The St. Francis de Sales Catholic Church appears to be truly embracing the meaning of Easter and reinforcing it through this special children’s project with the creation of new Easter gardens on Palm Sunday. This marks merely one of their special activities to celebrate and reinforce the meaning of Easter Sunday to their parish.
By Jeffrey Harris