Left, Hand-loomed cloth and pillows from Guatemala; right, Sisters Bela Mis and Marita Beumer help customers with their purchases.
On Dec. 2, the Sisters of the Precious Blood participated in the Catholic Relief Services Ethical Trade Sale, hosted by the archdiocese’s Catholic Social Action Office in partnership with Weavers of Justice. The sale, now in its 14th year, was held at the University of Dayton River Campus (the former NCR World Headquarters building).
Colorful purses, scarves, blankets and throw pillows lined the tables; the items were striped in red, pink, blue, green and orange, creating an eye-catching display for Christmas shoppers. Precious Blood Sisters also offered jewelry, wooden puzzles, bookmarks, Christmas ornaments, Nativity scenes and colorful crosses for sale — all handcrafted items purchased from various artisans in Guatemala. Sisters Marita Beumer, Bela Mis, Ann Clark and Patty Kremer were some of the Sisters who worked at the sale, while several other Sisters stopped by to do some Christmas shopping.
“It is part of the traditional Mayan process to use natural resources to make colors; they use a combination of different plants,” Sister Bela said. “By making these products, this is how many women in Guatemala work to earn money for their families.”
Sister Bela, who is originally from Guatemala City, also explained that detailed, elaborate Nativity scenes play an important role in Christmas decorations in Guatemala.
“In Guatemala, you can go to a house, and they can offer to show you their Nativity — you will be in shock to see that they are using a whole room for that Nativity!” she said. Often, the entire family will work together over a few days to create the scene, which may include rivers with real water; mountain scenes; or life-size figures of Jesus, Mary and Joseph.
“The Nativity is something that is so special,” Sister Bela added.
Sister Marita explained that proceeds from the sale go to support Holy Mary of the Most Precious Blood School. Sister Marifé Hellman serves as director for the school, which for 11 years has provided educational opportunities for young women from rural areas of Guatemala. Making the handcrafted products available in the U.S. promotes “knowing that we’re all one in God’s family, and being able to appreciate the culture of different areas,” Sister Marita said.
Most of the products available at the Catholic Social Action office’s sale come from Catholic Relief Services and their partners, who bring fair wages and prices and safer working conditions to small-scale farmers and artisans around the world. In addition, with each purchase from a CRS partner, a donation is made to the CRS Fair Trade Fund. In addition to the CRS products, five outside vendors were also included in this year’s sale, including the Precious Blood Sisters. The Sisters have participated in the sale for five years.
– Story and photos by Mary Knapke