Jenkins Twp. man’s faith, passion drive him to donate handmade crosses

Last updated: July 06. 2013 11:56PM - 3685 Views

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JENKINS TWP. — A Jenkins Township man makes crosses and sends them worldwide — for free.

Well, he does “charge” the Holy Spirit a blessing for all he serves.

Billy Emmanuel, 68, blind in one eye and an amputee, toils for long hours in his garage/workshop to craft crosses that he has sent to places like the Vatican, in churches in New York City and to Newtown, Conn.

Emmanuel mixes holy water and oil that he has gathered from various places around the world — Lourdes, Fatima, the River Jordan, Loch Ireland, India and others — into the stain he uses for every cross.

Emmanuel: Faith works

He said he sends the crosses to people “who need something to hold on to,” like the families of victims of tragedies like the 9/11 terrorist attacks and the shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown last December.

“Faith is the greatest part of recovery,” he said. “Without faith, we’re lost.”

Emmanuel started making the crosses in 1988 shortly after his mother passed away. A retired carpenter, Emmanuel said he has sent crosses to Pope John Paul II, the family of Jackie Kennedy Onassis and to actor Jim Caviezel, who played Jesus in the 2004 movie, “The Passion of the Christ.”

Emmanuel said he is ashamed of “our country and our people” because people are getting away from the church and morality continues to decline.

“God needs people like me to show His love. And there’s no better way than to make these crosses — the symbol of God’s love for everybody.”

The Rev. Richard J. Cirba, assistant pastor at Emmanuel’s parish — St. John the Evangelist in Pittston — said Emmanuel has “a charitable heart” and is always looking to reach out to bring God’s love to people, especially those who are suffering.

“I think the making of the cross is a way of showing people the love and suffering of Jesus,” Cirba said. “He feels by his making these crosses, it brings some comfort and peace to those who are suffering, like the families in Newtown.”

Local cross recipients

Emmanuel has made crosses for the parish First Holy Communion recipients and Confirmation candidates. He’s made them for other parishes as well. And he attaches a card with a message that Cirba said makes a positive impression on everyone, especially children.

“He really believes in his heart that it’s the Holy Spirit who is guiding his work,” Cirba said. “It’s an act of love on his part to be able to share this gift with others, especially children. The bottom line is the love and charity of his work.”

Emmanuel said he doesn’t decide who to make the crosses for — God does that for him. He includes a card with a sincere message of his mission with every cross he makes.

“I’ve made them for the poorest of the poor and the richest of the rich,” he said. “There’s no power in what I do; no power in me. The power is in everybody. God asks us to love each other and take care of one another.”

Emmanuel is making a spear with a cross on it to send to the Vatican. He said it will commemorate St. Longinus, the Roman centurion who pierced the side of Jesus while he was hanging on the cross.

Emmanuel will send the special spear to Pope Francis.

This is how Emmanuel decides what to make and for whom.

“I have a vision for everything I do,” he said. “I’ve made between 90,000 and 100,000 crosses.”

He said Angelo Descul, an artist from Berwick, painted every face of Jesus on every cross, and Joseph Amity donates all the wood for the crosses.

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