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Supplies for the faithful

Paul Garson at Garson’s Religious Store Monday morning. (Anthony Jackson/ Journal)

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Boxes filled with religious goods awaiting shipment to churches around the state filled the back room of Garson’s Religious Store last Monday morning as out front, a steady stream of customers worked their way through aisles packed with rosaries, Bibles and other devotional items.

It’s been an unusually busy June for the small, family-operated business at 2415 San Pedro NE, largely thanks to Catholic churches resuming canceled ceremonies like First Holy Communions and confirmation.

“People have been scrambling to come in to buy things that they need for the First Communion and gifts,” said store manager Paul Garson.

Robert Garson, right, removes a tag off of an angel statue as Charlotte Otero-Tafoya prepares to package it in a box. Garson and his brother, Paul, have experienced a boom in business at their family-run store, Garson’s Religious Store at 2415 San Pedro NE.

During normal years, Catholic ceremonies like First Holy Communions and confirmations are scheduled out over several months during the spring.

But the coronavirus altered that schedule.

This year, most First Holy Communions in the state were rescheduled to June. Regular ceremonies like baptisms and memorials have similarly been disrupted.

Garson said it’s the first time he’s ever heard of First Holy Communions being scheduled in June, as Mother’s Day usually marks the end of ceremonies for the season.

Archdiocese of Santa Fe spokeswoman Celine Radigan said the pandemic postponed sacraments in all 93 parishes in the Archdiocese of Santa Fe.

She did not say how many sacraments were postponed in 2020, but last year, 2,672 confirmations and 3,750 First Holy Communions were celebrated in April and May.

It’s not only the rescheduled religious ceremonies that are keeping Garson’s busy – religious items like prayer candles and statues of saints are also in high demand from both individuals and churches.

Despite experiencing a boom in business, some items like cases of communion wine aren’t selling as fast at Garson’s Religious Store.

“We have just always known and sensed that … when people buy devotional articles and candles, it’s their way of finding comfort and solace in prayer,” Garson said. “And the prayers and devotions are ways for them to express their faith.”

Garson said churches, which account for 70% of all sales, have seen an increased demand for items like prayer candles from their congregations.

“This definitely has been a prayerful period for people,” Garson said. “People have been scared.”

Radigan said church capacity being capped at 25% has put a damper on people participating in church services.

“Due to these capacity restrictions, physical participation in liturgical celebrations has been limited and thus the need for sacramental supplies by parishes has decreased,” she wrote in an email. “However, many of the faithful have sought ways to create a prayerful place at home.”

Robert Garson, center, hands Harry Davis a box containing an angel statue. Davis purchased the statue for a funeral in Las Cruces.

Statues of saints have also been particularly popular since people are wanting decor for newly spruced up gardens, he said.

Although there has been a rush on many items, others – like communion wine and celebratory items – are not moving as fast.

“We’re not selling much in the way of party goods, that’s for sure,” Garson said.

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