Jason Studnicka continues a family and Holy Week tradition Print
Around the Diocese
Written by Kevin Wondrash, Catholic Herald Staff   
Thursday, Mar. 29, 2018 -- 12:00 AM
jason studnicka
Jason Studnicka weaves palm branches for arrangements he gives to Bishop Robert C. Morlino of Madison and priests at his home parish, Corpus Christi in Muscoda. (Contributed photo/Jason Studnicka)

Many families have Holy Week and Easter traditions.

Some of them have been passed down from generation to generation.

Such is the case for Jason Studnicka of Muscoda.

For the past 10 years, following in a craft he learned from his late father, Jim, Studnicka makes palm arrangements and presents them to Bishop Robert C. Morlino on Palm Sunday.

Displaying a family tradition

“Years and years” ago, the 35-year-old Studnicka said, his dad taught him how to weave palm branches into a pyramid, something passed down from the family’s Bohemian ancestors.

“Dad would start them,” he said, after getting the palm on Palm Sunday, and “us kids would finish the weave.”

He added that he was told the Bohemian tradition was passed down from parent to child over many generations -- “how much truth there is to that, I have no clue.” he said.

The family tradition would get wider recognition during Studnicka’s time in the seminary more than a decade ago.

While at Sacred Heart Major Seminary in Detroit, he weaved his palm that he got from Palm Sunday Mass into the pyramid style and put it on his door.

Some of his fellow seminarians asked him to do the same to their palms.

During a meeting with Bishop Morlino, he told Studnicka that he had heard about his weaving talents.

“[The bishop] thought it was pretty neat,” he said.

Bishop Morlino wondered if he could make something for him -- similar to the arrangement that the pope carries on Palm Sunday -- using numerous branches weaved in the Bohemian tradition.

“If my bishop tells me to make him one, I guess I’ll make him one,” Studnicka reflected.

Carrying on the tradition

During the summer, between years in the seminary, Studnicka’s dad died.

He took some time off from his seminary studies, which later became permanent as he started working at Meister Cheese in Muscoda. He is now a plant manager there.

With Palm Sunday coming, it was time to make a palm arrangement for Bishop Morlino.

He enlisted the help of a local florist, Katie Bailey, to help him acquire the palms, which she still does today.

The first step was to make the pyramid base his father had perfected.

With his dad gone, Studnicka had a “challenge just starting them.”

Soon, he figured it out and went to work fixing up the palms to weave them together.

He can get about four or five palms ready in an hour.

That year, the tradition of the bishop having a palm arrangement for the Palm Sunday Mass at St. Patrick Church in Madison, part of Cathedral Parish, began.

For the past five years, he’s also made palm arrangements for the priests at his home parish at St. John the Baptist Church in Muscoda, part of Corpus Christi Parish, where he and his mother, Mary Ann, are members.

Getting ready for Holy Week

This year has been no exception as three days before Palm Sunday, Studnicka still had some work to do to finish this year’s arrangements.

This year, he weaved between 100 and 120 palms to make both arrangements.

He gets the majority of his palms from the T. H. Stemper Company in Milwaukee, where he said he’s known on a first-name basis.

“They call me the day they come in [and I] rush to Milwaukee the next day and pick up my order,” he said.

With most of the palms coming from Texas and Florida, there have been a smaller number available because of last year’s hurricanes, adding that he’s a little behind this year and a little “under the gun” to finish the arrangements.

As of the Thursday before Palm Sunday, Studnicka said most of the pieces were folded, they just had to be put into their arrangements, which will require him to “feverishly weave at night” with an arrangement taking four to five hours to put together.

He has no doubts the arrangements will be done in time to present to the bishop and priests just in time for the start of Holy Week.

The joy of palm weaving

Along with carrying on a family tradition, Studnicka gets a lot of joy out of weaving the palms every year.

“Just seeing the bishop carrying it is heartwarming in itself,” he said, “I thoroughly enjoy seeing that.”

He’s also happy when he sees the bishop giving some of the pyramid pieces of the arrangement to small children, following the Mass.

The bishop even asked Studnicka to make some separate pieces, just to hand out to kids.

He’s also working on a palm weaved-basket the bishop can hold them in.

In addition to sharing the tradition with the surrounding Catholic Church community, Studnicka shares it with family members also.

He remarked that during many get-togethers of family members on his dad’s side, sometimes with upwards of 40 to 50 relatives of all ages, he’ll bring along his leftover palm branches and spend some of Easter Sunday showing others how to weave the palms.

“The core of it is still teaching everybody how to make that pyramid,” he said.

The weaving is a source of personal enjoyment also.

While weaving, he described the scene in his home as, “sitting in a chair with nothing but palms sitting around me and buckets of water to keep them from drying out . . . cutting them up and weaving them, watching TV” or sometimes praying.

He called the two weeks before Palm Sunday his “busiest time of the year” getting everything done.

“I don’t get much sleep, and I do a lot of weaving,” he said.

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