Priest makes crucifixes from old church pews

Father Bill Roush, pastor of Holy Family Parish of Riverside, Richmond and Wellman, recently made crucifixes out of old church pews for graduating high school seniors.

By Lindsay Steele
The Catholic Messenger

Last month, Father Bill Roush delivered handmade crucifixes to new high school graduates from Holy Family Parish of Riverside, Richmond and Wellman, where he serves as pastor. Father Roush made the crucifixes using wood from old pews. “I know it’s something that will last them their lifetime,” Father Roush said. “Everyone needs a crucifix in their home.”

This is Father Roush’s second year of giving gifts of handmade pew-wood crucifixes to new graduates. During the in-person deliveries, he blesses the recipient and wishes them well in their future endeavors. “They’re all doing different things and starting new beginnings. I just wanted to give them God’s blessing as they pursue this new life ahead of them.” Deacon Derick Cranston, who serves the parish, joined Father Roush on the visits. Senior Brenten Boyse said the cross was an “amazing, thoughtful gift. How cool that it was made from an old church pew!”

Fr. Roush

Father Roush said he receives invitations to graduation parties but isn’t always able to attend due to his schedule. Choosing a morning and arranging visits with the graduates’ families allows him to celebrate with more people.


He has a longstanding interest in carpentry and woodworking. “In high school, my favorite class was shop,” he said with a laugh. He has a small workshop in the basement of the rectory. “I have all the equipment. (The crucifixes) are very easy to make.”

He makes pew-wood crucifixes for other groups, as well, including religious education teachers and coordinators. Recently, he made crucifixes for parishioners who had a role in building St. Joseph Parish in Wellman. They are among the oldest parishioners, he noted. He has made about 40 crucifixes this year, including for the 12 graduates. He also makes pew-wood gifts for the fall dinner auction each year. Past projects include coasters with engravings of the churches and a sofa table.

Originally, he used pews left over from the remodeling of St. Mary Church in Riverside to make the items. Later, a parishioner heard about Father Roush’s projects and donated a pew from the old St. Joseph Church in Wellman.

The wood for the graduation crucifixes came from both churches. Father Roush tried to give the graduates crosses from their main place of worship “for sentimental reasons,” though all had the same engraving: “Wood from a Holy Family church pew.” One pew can make several-hundred 10”x5” crosses, he said. “A pew goes a long way!”

Sometimes he uses olive wood from Jerusalem to make gifts. He makes palm crosses for confirmands out of this material, as many of the confirmands will receive pew crucifixes later on.

Handmade gifts bring joy to both recipient and creator, Father Roush said. “It’s just doing something personal,” he said.

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