Msgr. Wassel gifts matchstick cross to Holy Family Manor

The cross created from 9,781 matches bears a crucified Christ. (Photo by John Simitz)

By TARA CONNOLLY Staff writer

After Msgr. Anthony Wassel was ordained to the priesthood in 1960, his brother Father Eugene Wassel shared his experiences in the priesthood and passed along a unique craft in honor of the crucified Christ.

Msgr. Wassel, now a resident at Holy Family Manor (HFM), Bethlehem and pastor emeritus of Assumption, Sacred Heart and St. Joseph, Mahanoy City, learned how to create crosses from matchsticks and began making 6-inch-tall crosses as gifts.

When a local grocery store went out of business, the owners offered him an estimated 10,000 wooden matchsticks at no cost.

“With such a large supply, I thought I should make a large cross,” said Msgr. Wassel.

On Jan. 14, 1964 he set out to construct a nearly 5-foot-tall cross from the matches, which had to be lit and extinguished one by one before being carefully glued together.

“Any time I had a little free time – I would work on it to relax,” said Msgr. Wassel.

On Aug. 18, 1965, after 130 hours of intricate work and 9,781 matches, the project was complete.

Throughout his various priestly assignments, Msgr. Wassel took the cross with him to meditate on the crucified Christ – which he affixed to the cross.

“Many holy men and women became saints by meditating on the cross of the crucified Christ. Every home should have a crucifix of the suffering of Christ on the cross,” he said.

Since HFM has become his “home away from home,” Msgr. Wassel gifted the cross to HFM, where it is on display outside the chapel.

“It’s a way to encourage people to have a crucifix in their home,” he said.

“My hope is that it will catch fire – not the actual cross – but a devotion to the passionate Christ.”