Lauren Carroll/CRS

Just Another Cross? Think again.

CRS Staff

As Catholics, receiving a cross has long been part of our Christian tradition. We are welcomed into the Church at Baptism with the sign of the cross by chrism oil, gifted crosses for First Communion and RCIA and annually receive ashes upon our foreheads in the shape of the cross. The cross permeates our faith, reminding us of Christ’s infinite love for us. And yet, while we bear these crosses throughout our lives, we rarely stop to think about where our physical crosses come from- those that adorn the walls of homes, the altars of our churches as well as the ones that lay gently upon our chests. Where did they come from? Who made them? How has their production impacted our planet? We have not stepped back to consider these questions. Until now.

Right now, all across the country, one million Hispanic Catholic leaders are participating in a pastoral process called V Encuentro. This initiative, led by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, aims to form leaders, evangelize the community and profoundly shape the future vision for Hispanic Ministry in the Church. This year, the leaders of V Encuentro considered the very questions we posed and made a conscious decision to purchase sweatshop free ethically produced cross necklaces for participants.

Ethically produced V Encuentro crosses are placed on the altar for blessing. Purchase crosses here.

Through the Encuentro formation process half a million Hispanic leaders will be commissioned using sustainably produced crosses from CRS Ethical Trade partner Ethix Merch. The impact of this decision means that 30 full time workers are paid a living wage with benefits, wood is sustainably and responsibly farmed and revenue is generated for CRS to help workers around the world. For every Catholic purchase made from Ethix Merch, CRS receives a donation. As a result, the purchase of these Encuentro crosses generated $50,000 which has enabled CRS to carry out new projects in Mexico, Palestine and Haiti.

While it might seem like just another cross necklace, this cross represents half a million prophetic voices witnessing to God’s love both here in the U.S. and around the world.  The impact of the cross is felt in Mexico where fair trade coffee farmers are learning how to improve their coffee harvest, in Palestine where marginalized farmers are banning together to cultivate fair trade almonds and in Haiti where fair trade artisans are rebuilding their workshops damaged by Hurricane Matthew.

Coffee farmers in Oaxaca Mexico are learning environmentally friendly techniques for cultivating coffee and increasing yields thanks to donations from CRS Ethical Trade partners. Photo by Oscar Leiva-Silverlight for CRS.

The cross calls us to encounter one another on a daily basis- to encounter Jesus in the world. Through this simple act of choosing an ethically produced cross, Catholics are changing the way purchases are made. A movement has started. How will you be part of this culture of encounter?

5,000 parishes. 7 million Catholics. 1 Cross. 1 Church. Encuentro.

Find ethically produced products for yourself or your parish here.

Read this story in Spanish.