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Monday, March 11th, 2013

Weaving generations, tradition

Women learn braiding techniques as they prepare for Palm Sunday

By Shelley Grieshop

A group of palm weaving instructors gather Saturday to practice the art at Maria. . .

MARIA STEIN - The yellow palm leaves didn't always bend in the direction the crafty women planned during a special workshop Saturday morning.
Sister Barbara Ann Hoying's first attempt at creating a tightly-weaved cone with four lengthy palms wasn't her best.
"See what happens when you don't do it right," she said with a grin, as the other eight ladies laughed aloud.
The women encircled a pair of old, wooden tables at the Maria Stein Shrine of the Holy Relics to hone their palm weaving skills before instructing others at workshops in upcoming weeks. A few of the ladies will teach the unusual craft to residents and others at area nursing homes.
Workshop attendees will learn to manipulate the unblessed palms into crosses, long braids, cones, roses, crowns of thorns and other designs, explained Anne McGuire, director of programs and ministries at the shrine.
"We're doing this now so people can take them along to church to have them blessed on Palm Sunday," she said.
Palm weaving has been in existence since ancient times. For Catholics, the palm commemorates Jesus' arrival in Jerusalem before his death on the cross. His path into the city was decorated with palm branches, a symbol of victory.
On Palm Sunday - the sixth and final Sunday during Lent and the start of Holy Week - Catholic priests bless the leaves and distribute them to parishioners. McGuire said many people attach their palms to religious paintings such as the Last Supper or crucifixes in their homes.
Instructor Mary Rosenbeck kept busy Saturday shuffling from chair to chair, helping others to properly braid and criss-cross the flexible - sometimes flighty - palms.
"My sister-in-law showed me how to do this one a long time ago," instructor Mary Rosenbeck said of the cone design. "Last year I learned a few more at Anne's first workshop."
An overwhelming crowd of 180 people attended last year's event at the shrine, McGuire said. More classes were scheduled this year to accommodate the growing interest.
McGuire said preparation for palm weaving is fairly simple. The palms, which can be purchased from a variety of vendors, are ready to go upon arrival, she said.
"We just keep them cold and in plastic bags before using," she said. "We have found that spraying them with a little olive oil helps keep them for years."
Helen Homan of Minster said each Easter she proudly displays a beautiful palm decoration weaved by her mother-in-law, who passed away in the '90s.
"It's fun to get it out each season," she said. "It's very symbolic."
Homan was seated next to her daughter, Jana Ranly; the pair will teach the art to residents and families at Briarwood Village, where Ranly works.
"It really is a great tradition to pass on from generation to generation," Homan said.

Palm weaving workshops:
When: 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. March 16; 2 and 6:30 p.m. March 19; and 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. March 23.
Where: Maria Stein Shrine of the Holy Relics, 2291 St. Johns Road, Maria Stein.
Cost: Adults $3; children under age 12, $1
To register: Call 419-925-4532 or email
Instructors will teach two cross, three braid, cone, rose, crown of thorns and cross with pin strips designs.
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