A tradition that dates back to the Black Forest of Germany will continue for nearly 80 years at the Church of the Holy Martyrs in Taranto.
The Corpus Christi celebration with sawdust mats will take place from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. next Sunday at the church, which is part of Guardian Angels Parish.
“We always want to be able to show our devotion to God,” said Reverend Aaron Kriss, Senior Vicar Parish.
“In the Catholic Church, this is the heart of our faith. It allows us to do something for our spiritual well-being and stay connected to the Lord, even for those who have been away due to covid or other reasons.
Kriss said the event has always been a way to bring people together, and this year that’s especially the case after a two-year hiatus due to the pandemic.
For anyone who has never seen the event in person, it’s a huge undertaking in which loads of sawdust are tumbled with dye in cement mixers. Kriss said he likes to make sure every color of the rainbow — and even some — is offered to people to bring out the intricate details of their sketch.
Sawdust dyeing is scheduled for 6:30 p.m. Monday in the Holy Martyrs parking lot at 353 W. Ninth Ave.
It’s open to anyone interested in helping, and no registration is necessary.
“If people want to come out and observe, that’s fine too,” Kriss said. “Don’t go out in your best clothes.”
Production will result in approximately 80 burlap sacks of colored dust to be used the following week.
The family of parishioner Elizabeth Novotny has been making the rugs for generations. Even when the Tarentum native graduated college and moved for her career to Orlando, Florida, Novotny made it a point to come home for the mat celebration.
“I came home twice a year,” she says. “Once at Christmas and then for Corpus Christi. It is very important for me.
“Not only because we celebrate the blood and body of Christ by making beautiful rugs, but also because it’s a family tradition. I am the fifth generation to participate.
Novotny, 35, has since moved to Ligonier, which makes his travels a bit easier.
This year, his family is planning a 12-by-15-foot rendition of “The Last Supper.” She can’t wait for her 2-year-old son to participate for the first time.
“He hasn’t been able to do it for the last two years because of covid,” she said. “I’m glad he’s getting his hands dirty.”
People usually arrive at the church around 8 am to start drawing their scene.
Most are religious in nature, like a cross or a rosary, and they range from simple to complex.
“There were a lot that stood out,” Kriss said, recalling a “gigantic” one that featured a chalice and the host and the grapes all seated in front of a stained glass window.
“They even took the time to write words on the windows.”
He said the event usually draws a nice crowd to watch the art unfold.
About 25 mats should be created.
A light lunch will be offered to the artists and a closing prayer procession will begin at 4 p.m.
Kriss said that when the tradition was founded by the Holy Spirit Fathers in Germany, carpets were made from flower petals.
“No matter what we use, the idea is the same,” Kriss said. “To honor God.”
To register to make a rug, call the parish at 724-226-4900.