By Lindsay Steele
The Catholic Messenger
WILTON — Earlier this year, religious education students from St. Mary Parish purchased a tree for the vacant, grassy area where the old church once stood.
In the fall of 2019, religious education teacher Jean Semsch and her sixth-grade students began raising money for the purchase of a coniferous tree for the vacant area north of the current church. The students, who are now in seventh grade, started by organizing a Veteran’s Day reception. For a free-will donation, parishioners could enjoy doughnuts decorated by the students. The students also organized a hot chocolate reception and a Pampered Chef party.
“The parish really enjoyed those fundraisers,” Semsch said. “The Veteran’s Day reception, my (Vietnam veteran) husband said he had never been honored like that. And the hot chocolate reception was a hit to the point where it ran out and we had to get more.”
With the money raised from these events, the parish purchased a 6-foot-tall Concolor tree from Shademaster in Davenport for $500. Shademaster delivered and planted the tree in March, just before the COVID-19 pandemic hit Iowa. Recently, the students assembled around the tree for a photo op.
About $300 remained after the purchase of the tree. Most of that money went to the Ladies of St. Mary’s group, which has not been able to organize its spring and fall fundraiser dinners this year due to the pandemic. Semsch also surprised the students who helped with the fundraisers by gifting them with Casey’s gift cards, masks and crucifixes.
This is the second tree Semsch’s students have purchased for the parish. Semsch has not been able to plan any fundraisers for her current sixth-graders due to the pandemic, but hopes to be able to resume them once it is safe to do so.