“To have it fashioned from a piece of wood from the Thomas Fire, it brings tears to people’s eyes. Especially those who lost their home. A lady said to me last night, ‘This means so much to us because it’s such an important reminder of from the ashes of a fire there’s hope.’ ”

Father Leon Hutton, pastor of Our Lady of the Assumption Church in Ventura, was talking to Angelus News about his church getting a handmade 9-feet-by-6-feet cross carved from a eucalyptus tree partly burnt in the devastating December 2017 Thomas Fire. 

The cross is a labor of love from Deacon Mike Burns, whose tractor service shop was one of the 1,063 structures destroyed in the conflagration that burned nearly 282,000 acres in Ventura and Santa Barbara counties. A tree had toppled over behind his tractor service shop but was only scarred on the outside. 

And even though the cross still needs the representation of Jesus, known as a corpus, Hutton has already put it to good use as Our Lady of the Assumption’s Lenten “Mercy Tree.” In the sanctuary, the cross has been laid on its front side, while some 500 white, paper crosses have been nailed to the back by parishioners. Each cross contains a prayer petition.

Hutton said, laughing, “The church has never had a crucifix bigger than about 8 inches,” adding that the bigger cross “wasn’t a reality until the new wood cross came into the church the night before Ash Wednesday. Now it’s our ‘Mercy Tree,’ and throughout Lent, people will take the prayers off and home to pray for them, with new ones added.

“Then, hopefully, through the Easter season the cross will be repurposed until we get the corpus on it. And then we’ll bless it as part of our remodeled sanctuary. It’s a sizable chunk of wood — 700 to 800 pounds.”

Full story at Angelus News.