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Marion Tribune

Marion Tribune
Homeowners Ask Saint's Aid On Sale

The white bungalow on Lancaster Drive listed like any house on the South Bend real estate market:

' Located in Miami Hills, this home is much larger than it appears and offers a 2 car garage, large eat-in kitchen, rear family-room with a cozy fireplace and new Anderson windows.'

The ad said it all - almost. What it failed to reveal was the presence of a small statue of St. Joseph buried in the yard, a factor that owner Sue DePriest credited for bringing the sale of the home to close last week.

"I don't remember the exact date I buried the statue," DePriest said, "but the ground was still frozen and I had to chip out a little hole for him. It didn't sell right away, but we got an offer on March 1, I guess it took about a month."

DePreist and her husband Joe, are two of many homeowners nationwide who have turned to St. Joseph for help in selling a home.

Although there are several variations on the theme, the practice involves burying a small plastic statue of St. Joseph -The Roman Catholic Church's patron saint of the family and household needs-in the front or back yard of a house on the market, asking for the saint's blessing, and waiting on a offer. Once the sale closes, sellers usually unearth the statue and put it in a place of honor in their home.

This might sound like a superstitious ritual born of an economy in recession, but St. Joseph has been used to bless real estate transactions for centuries.

Joseph of Nazareth was a carpenter by trade and the husband of Mary, the mother of Jesus. In 1870, Pope Pius IX declared Joseph a "Patron of the Universal Church." Pope John XXIII ordered Joseph's name added to the Catholic Mass in 1962. His feast day is March 19.

The tradition of burying St. Joseph memorabilia to assist in the sale or acquisition of property dates back to the 1700's, according to Rev. James Coen, director of the Catholic Information Center in Washington. "Nuns seeking land to establish or expand a convent, would bury medals of St. Joseph and ask for his blessing," Coen said.

Medals have evolved into statues, and today thousands of homeowners of various denominations ask for St. Joseph's intercession.

"It's incredible how it's spread" said Coen, who draws a sharp distinction between those who genuinely believe and those who treat the custom "like a superstition, like burying a rabbit's foot."

Real estate agents are often at the forefront of the ritual.

"The first time I heard about it, I thought God might strike me down" local agent Claudia Stohler said with a laugh. "Most of the time, it's with the idea that the seller will do anything to sell the home, and they want to put their faith in God."

Area real estate agents and homeowners often pick up statues at Aquinas, a religious goods store at 2306 Mishawaka Ave.

"We sell thousands of these things all over the country," owner Mike Manely said. "I've owned the store for 22 years and we've sold them all along. It's only the last 10 years or so that it's gotten more attention.

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