California Catholic Daily exclusive
Since 1998, one of the bright spots in the Diocese of Sacramento has been Easter’s Catholic Books and Gifts. Easter’s was founded and is operated by sisters Denise Easter-Kramer and Sandy Easter-Graham, who told CalCatholic in 2009, “Our primary goal is to help re-evangelize the Church.”
To call Easter’s a bookstore is a little misleading — unless we take a step back in time to when bookstores served as a locus for the cultural expression of their communities. Of course Easter’s sells books. And religious items. But it is also an irreplaceable center of cultural Catholicism in the Sacramento area.
Easter’s has hosted events for such Catholic luminaries as radio host and author Patrick Madrid, Chesterton expert Dale Ahlquist, authors Joseph Pearce and Michael O’Brien, actor and pro-life activist Eduardo Verástegui, and Fr. Joseph Fessio, SJ, editor of Ignatius Press.
Easter’s is also the home of Easter’s Faith Formation Center. From their website: “Easter’s Faith Formation Center (EFFC) provides an extraordinary venue — academic, informational, social — for those who want to enrich their understanding of the Catholic faith. Courses cover Church history, the Catechism of the Catholic Church, the thought of John Paul II, the Summa of St. Thomas Aquinas, Christian ethics, the cardinal and theological virtues, the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius, end-of-life care, and other theological topics. Periodically, national and international speakers come to talk about everything from radical Islam to Christian witness.”
EFFC classes are always free, although donations are encouraged.
But this bright spot of Catholic life is now endangered. Earlier this year, the sisters needed to move Easter’s from its previous home on Auburn Boulevard in Sacramento to Sunrise Boulevard in nearby Citrus Heights. As anyone who has tried to open a new business, or even move an existing business in the state of California knows, this can be a nightmare. The sisters describe what happened:
“In January of 2016 the building we were renting sold. After many months we’ve relocated to Citrus Heights, about 5 miles from our old location. We began the move Memorial Day weekend May 27, expecting to reopen the store June 1. A previous move in 2007 had been done over a 3-day weekend.”
But it wasn’t that easy. On July 9, the sisters wrote “… we are still not approved to reopen our store. Unable to request an inspection for our license until all items were permanently placed and attaching a detailed floor plan (3 copies to city, 3 copies to fire marshal) requested by the city, we’ve now been notified this spot is not zoned retail….”
That was the start of a bizarre bureaucratic labyrinth that continues to this day. Denise Easter-Kramer told CalCatholic that Easter’s Books and Gifts is now down from seven to four employees, and that their work is supplemented by volunteers. She said “this is about the survival of a small business, supposedly the heart of communities. But I know this will glorify God in the end!”
Fr. Edward P. Pepka, one of the catechists at the Easter Faith Formation Center, writes: “The delays, which seem never to end, are draining (Easter’s) financial resources. The operating expenses total approximately $7000 a month. They expect a signage bill — for a business that may not operate yet — for $4000. They are struggling to pay their employees… All this means that Easter’s is on the brink. I teach in Easter’s Faith Formation Program. Every third Saturday, I meet with a group of people who are eager to take a serious look at some aspect of the Catholic Tradition. It’s a pleasure for me to meet with them and to grapple with various topics –many of which I would not have studied or taught except for this program. It rises or falls with the store. I think that the best theological activity in this area is going on in this program, which is open to everyone who walks in. Can we let such a program collapse?”
Easter’s Books and Gifts has set up a GoFundMe page to tide them over until the move is completed. You can support them here: https://www.gofundme.com/eastersbooks
To learn about Easter’s Faith Formation Center, go here: https://www.eastersfaith.org/