St. Joseph Project hopes to put Christian carvers back to work in Bethlehem

Photo: A Christian carver from the Holy Land, Misaad Misaad,  carves an original St. Joseph statue as part of the St. Joseph Project. The project is helping to get carvers such as Misaad back to work and, at the same time, hopes to increase devotion to St. Joseph during the Year of St. Joseph.

With the inspiration of St. Joseph …  and olive wood, Rami Qumsieh is trying to put Christians in Bethlehem back to work. 

“There is no consistency of any work,” said Christians of the Holy Land founder Rami Qumsieh. “The hardship for families is exponential. It’s hard enough raising a family, and to add to it lack of income puts tremendous stress on the fabric of the family.”

The pandemic has devastated the Christian community’s ability to earn a living since early in 2020. Travel restrictions brought Holy Land pilgrimages to a halt, and along with it the income generated by pilgrimage related businesses (which employ nearly 80 percent of the Christian population in the area). 

Support our brothers and sisters in Christ

“When I heard about this project, I wanted to find out how we could help,” said Bishop Robert Gruss. “This is an opportunity for us to support our brothers and sisters in Christ. At the same time, purchasing a statue of St. Joseph provides a beautiful, visual reminder of this heroic saint who serves as an example and inspiration for all.” 
The statues are being carved during the Year of Saint Joseph (December 8, 2020, through December 8, 2021) which was proclaimed by Pope Francis. During this year, all are invited to discover, anew, St. Joseph and his role as a hidden, though loving and beloved father who showed courage and obedience (click here to learn about indulgences offered during the Year of St. Joseph, view videos and learn more). 

"Saint Joseph wants to teach the power of fatherhood to all men and the beauty of purity to all people,” Bishop Gruss said. “All fatherhood is a threat to Satan who feared the fatherhood of St. Joseph the most. The Lord wants to make St. Joseph’s fatherhood known and replicated throughout the world.”

photo of blessing of statues
Every St. Joseph statue that is carved is blessed by Father Issa Hijazeen at the Church of Nativity and the Church of Shepherds Town (Beit Sahour). 

“With this St. Joseph Project, Mr. Qumsieh is promoting the re-assuring slogan among the wood carvers, ‘If you carve it, you'll be paid,’” said Father Issa Hijazeen, parish priest of Our Lady of Fatima Church Beit-Sahour, Palestine. “During this very difficult period in the Holy Land, all work opportunities are welcomed and needed. We pray for Mr. Qumsieh, to succeed in this project and for all his efforts to continue yielding fruit, as he represents a direct and sustainable source of revenue for our local Christian community.”
The carvers, themselves, have expressed their gratitude for work and are hopeful of support. With the majority of families out of work for more than a year, and without the equivalent of PPP loans or stimulus checks, Christians in the Holy Land are having a difficult time making ends meet. 
“It’s a struggle,” Rami said. “The community is suffering.”

 “I pray this project is a success,” said carver, Misaad Misaad.
A desire to help the Christian community, who represents less than 2 percent of those living in Bethlehem and surrounding areas, led Rami to turn to St. Joseph and olive wood. His hope is to put carvers like Misaad to work, empowering them to earn money by carving St. Joseph statues. Those who support the project will own a handmade, original and blessed St. Joseph statue. 

“A purchase serves as a Spiritual and Corporal Work of Mercy as it employs, feeds and comforts those in need,” Rami said. “A purchase also demonstrates solidarity, loyalty and prudence towards the Christian identity of our Holy Land." 

St. Joseph statue order forms have been shared with parishes across the Diocese of Saginaw. Those who are interested in placing an order and supporting this project are encouraged to make their orders directly through their parish, where possible, as collective shipping can save each parishioner $10. The order form can be downloaded here and returned to participating parishes. 

Those who would like to order directly will soon be able to do so at the following link: The deadline for orders is August 24 to help ensure arrival before Christmas. 

“Keeping in mind the suffering of our Catholic and Christian community in the Holy Land, and giving honor to Saint Joseph's profession as a woodworker (carpenter), this olive wood statue will memorialize this Year of Saint Joseph and increase devotion to him, while helping our faithful Christians in Bethlehem.”

Christians of the Holy Land founder Rami Qumseih holds two St. Joseph statues, which are available for purchase in two sizes. He is raising support for the St. Joseph Project which seeks to provide work for Christian carvers in the Holy Land who have been unemployed since the pandemic hit in March 2020.
Christians of the Holy Land founder Rami Qumsieh holds two St. Joseph statues, which are available for purchase in two sizes. He is raising support for the St. Joseph Project which seeks to provide work for Christian carvers in the Holy Land who have been unemployed since the pandemic hit in March 2020.