The crosses are back.
Surely you've noticed them, highly visible from Kaneville Road. There, in the expanse of green in front of St. Peter Catholic Church, stand 3,560 white crosses, representing the abortions said to be performed in the United States daily.
The crosses will be part of the Geneva landscape for two weeks, part of Respect Life Month.
Their presence, at least that first year, in 2005, is "one of those miracles that came to life," said Bill Pott, who with wife Maureen was the driving force behind the crosses coming to St. Peter.
They'd been asked to head the Respect Life effort. Maureen, thinking of her tiny, prematurely born grandson—born several months earlier and by then thriving—also thought of the Biblical edict, "to whom much is given, much is required," and agreed.
Her daughter's parish in Westmont had displayed crosses, and Maureen proposed St. Peter try the same thing. "If we're going to do it, do it big," advised Monsignor Joe Jarmaluk, former pastor, according to Maureen. She and Bill held a meeting and presented the plan, wondering, "How can we do this?" The response from others? "We can do that."
Maureen credits divine intervention at many steps along the way. There was the chance encounter with someone at Seigle's, who helped them obtain at a huge discount the thousands of dollars worth of wood needed to make the crosses. There was the available empty garage that provided space for volunteers to use to cut the wood into the proper sizes and drill the holes for the fasteners. And there were various other flashes of inspiration that helped them reach their goal.
Volunteers cut the wood; Pott's children and grandchildren and friends painted them all. When someone asked, "Where will we store them?" Maureen came up with the idea—she would credit that divine intervention again—to use banana boxes from the grocery store. The crosses fit perfectly, 50 to a box. Carol Anne Hayes, who with husband Jeff also did yeoman's work to bring the crosses to Geneva, took a box here, and a box there, to volunteers to put the crosses together. (They're stored flat, in two pieces, put together for display with metal fasteners.)
And during part of this prep time, the Potts were on a long-planned vacation, keeping in touch by phone and e-mail. "It was a miracle," repeated Bill with a smile.
Retired military man Ray Benedetto wanted the crosses to have the military precision of Arlington National Cemetery, and he and several other men come every year to plot out the lawn, making each location on the grass: crosses two apart, in rows two feet apart. This past Saturday, marking was taking place while more than 30 people—probably closer to 40, including children and teens—and led by Respect Life leader Mary Gorecki, hauled boxes out of storage, put the crosses together, laid them on the grass and pounded them into place.
The crosses have journeyed to other parishes, including non-Catholic ones, bringing their message of life to thousands of other people.
Maureen calls the display powerful, and effective. She knows of people who have changed their minds upon seeing the rows of white. And over the years, flowers and a note or two have been found among the crosses. "It's also a healing presence," she said. "It's changed lives."
There are those who find the crosses offensive, or over the top. Those pounding the crosses into the ground on a chilly October morning would, respectfully, disagree.