No gum with these cards

Got ‘im, got ‘im, need ‘im.

It’s the sound of baseball and hockey card collectors, poring over their hoard. But a southern Ontario church is putting some unlikely heroes on collector cards with the intention of getting people to think differently about both the ordinariness and extraordinariness of saints.

Playing off their parish name, All Saints Church in Erin, northwest of Toronto, recently released a series of sportscards portraying saints. The parish priest, Rev. Stephen Berryman, researched dozens of saints and settled on 15 patron saints of various professions for the initial series. But rather than use historical images and paintings, the parish used town residents to illustrate the saints.

So, the local fire chief represents St. Florian (patron saint of firefighters), the school librarian turns up as St. Jerome (librarians), a veterinarian illustrates St. Anthony (animals and veterinarians) and a retired Air Canada pilot is on the card for the little-known St. Joseph of Cupertino, who was known for levitating during prayers, making him a natural as patron saint of travellers.

The other cards include: 

St. Matthew (accountants), St. Francis (ecologists), St. Sebastian (athletes) St. Elizabeth of Hungary (bakers), Saints Cosmas and Damian (barbers and surgeons, illustrated by the local barber father-and-son team), St. Joseph (carpenters), St. Joseph of Arimathea (undertakers), St. Amand (hotel keepers), Thomas More (lawyers), St. Agatha (nurses) and, inexplicably, Michael, the archangel, who is the patron saint of grocers.

Some of the locals used on the cards were All Saints parishioners, but not all.

The idea, said Mr. Berryman, was to indicate that saints were just plain folk.

“I think saints are perceived as ivory tower sorts,” said Mr. Berryman, “but they’re just like us: they’re full of panic and pain and fear, but when push comes to shove, they come through. It doesn’t mean it hurts less when they are killed.

“They were just ordinary people responding in faith in extraordinary situations.”

Intended as an outreach project, the cards have been well received, said Mr. Berryman. The idea came from a parishioner who is involved in advertising. Like hockey and baseball cards, the All Saints cards portray the hero on the front with statistical and biographical information on the reverse. Where quotations from the saints were available, they were included. St. Jerome, patron saint of librarians, is quoted thus: “It’s more important to translate the scripture into action than into Latin.”

“It really is just a fun exercise for the parish,” said Mr. Berryman. “We just wanted to get the idea into the hands of people who wouldn’t normally see saints or go to church.”

Released on – what else – All Saints Day (Nov. 1), the parish has sold about a third of the 350 sets of cards in three months, most of them simply by word of mouth. Mr. Berryman’s research turned up hundreds of interesting saints which might be considered for future series of cards.

The cards sell for $15 for one set, $20 for two. Contact the parish at [email protected] or call 519 833 9961.

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