We often see beauty around us, but tend to take it for granted. A case in point was the beauty of lovely things that could be seen at the St. Joseph Day Altar at St. Joseph Church and Shrine in Gretna. Many people work really hard in various ways to offer a beautiful Altar for the community to enjoy.

But one person stands out for her special way of using her artistic talent to help the church monetarily and enhance the Altar with special pieces of art she creates.

Cynthia Blanchard Falterman, who goes by Cindy was raised in a family of jewelers. “My father, Lynn Blanchard who died in 1983 started the family jewelry store called New Orleans Jeweler’s Supply on Chartres Street in New Orleans in 1939. After 70 years, the store closed in 2009,” she said.

Cindy continued to use her creative side by making handcrafted jewelry in silver and gold with real gemstones. Today she does restringing for four jewelry stores and spends many days every week making pieces for the St. Joseph Gift Shop. That seems her mission in life. She not only makes the beautiful pieces, mostly in crystals and silver, but she donates them to the church. The rosary bracelets that Cindy makes and religious statues are the biggest sellers in the gift shop.                        

As the manager of the shop, she orders supplies including religious statues, rosaries, crucifixes, crosses, candles and prayer cards devoted to special saints.

“The stock is sold throughout the year by devoted volunteers on the second weekend of each month and after all Masses for a month before Christmas. Needless to say, the St. Joseph Altar Gift shop is a favorite among visitors. It’s the chance for the Faithful to purchase their religious items while visiting with the longtime volunteers,” she said.  

For decades, Altar time has been when Cindy gets her creative juices flowing! She loves to shape salt dough into art with which to embellish the St. Joseph Altar. 

Emily Gegenheimer, the Altar cookie chairperson has worked at St. Joseph’s Altar for 40 years. She explained about the special and ornate pieces that Cindy creates.                                                   

“Some are typical pieces always found on Sicilian influenced Altars, like a carpenter’s tool box with a hammer, saw and a nail, the kind used by St. Joseph the carpenter. There is a chalice, a monstrance, dove, sandals and a clock showing the time that Jesus died. There are also rosaries, and certain foods are represented, as well,” Emily said.

“The really ornate pieces are the Pupaculova, baked bread filled with dyed Easter eggs symbolizing the coming of Easter. She has made many of these over the years. The special works of art made by Cindy certainly add to the integrity of our Altar at St. Joseph’s,” she said.        

It’s a win-win, for the Altar is filled with amazing art and Cindy loves the challenge!