in local church news
The inaugural Bethlehem Market
All Saint University Parish hosted the inaugural Bethlehem Market, organized by Leslie Sousa, on December 3 from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Twenty-one vendors registered for the event that featured exclusively Catholic vendors. While some canceled because of rain, those who remained said it was their best market ever.
Vendors sold a variety of goods including baked confections, wood crafts, jewelry, books and textiles.
Savannah Governale, a parishioner of Our Lady of the Assumption, owns Savannah in Stitches, producing high-end knit goods including mittens, scarves, pom hats and even earrings. Governale said “The day was simply amazing. The rain did slow traffic a bit, but the trickle of customers toward the end of the day was similar to what I see at the end of most markets I’ve done.” Governale reporting bringing in double the profit of past markets. “Financially, sales were more than I’ve ever done,” she said. “I was pleasantly shocked. I believe the whole community was excited to support each other and I’m grateful, to say the least!”
Mary Our Mother Mission Society attends multiple conferences throughout the state to sell religious articles including icons, books and rosaries. David Moore, who is new to the mission will work primarily at such conferences. He said in the Stockton Diocese he knew of only two events like the Bethlehem Market this season.
Cheyenne Semchuk from CheyDani Crafts has been in business since 2019 when she sold handmade friendship bracelets. In 2020, she changed her line to the Catholic products she sells today. Semchuk operates an Etsy shop but said she finds Etsy more likely to feature or support businesses with “the complete opposite morals as me.” This year she began exploring in-person sales, beginning with her first pop-up at Dutch Hollow Farm’s Fall Festival. Semchuk also sold at the Hughson Arboretum & Gardens Fall Festival, a vendor event at Our Lady of Fatima and The Bethlehem Market.
When parishes host markets, Semchuk said “it allows the local parishioners to support local businesses that share their same beliefs and to help spread our beliefs by inviting friends to the events as well. It’s also a great way to give money to the local parishes or the causes that they are raising money for. I give 10% or more of my profits to nonprofits and this last market’s percentage went toward my local parish’s (St. Joseph’s) food pantry which is making food baskets for families for Christmas.”
According to Semchuk, those ideas came to fruition. “Despite a lot of rain, everything went well!” Foot traffic was steady throughout the market. “I think because we were exclusively Catholic vendors we had a decent amount of people come to solely support us whether it was pouring rain or not and we were all thankful for that.”
Like Governale, Semchuk reported excellent sales. “My sales were the best I’ve ever had at this market.” And this she attributes to the uniquely Catholic atmosphere. “They were my target audience.”
Semchuk also praised the organization and marketing of The Bethlehem Market that made it such a success. That credit goes to Leslie Sousa. Sousa began a social media campaign weeks before the market creating graphics and gift tags emphasizing “Jesus is the Reason” that connect the event to the true meaning of Christmas.
Bethlehem Market a first for Sousa
The market was Sousa’s first experience organizing a vendor event. “I think it went great!” She said, “The community definitely came out to Christmas shop and it was great to see so many people connecting and talking, which was one of my hopes for this event, to bring the community together during Advent.”
Sousa expressed her appreciation for All Saints and the Catholic community in the Turlock area for spreading the word and attending. She identified “having a good church community who supports parish events” as vital to a successful market. Sousa looks forward to bringing The Bethlehem Market back next Advent.