With Lent — the 40-day observance of repentance and preparation for Easter — underway, Knights of Columbus in Ellis County are giving parishioners a new way to display their faith.

About 30 members of the Hays, Victoria and Catharine councils gathered their pickups and trailers Saturday morning in the parking lot of Immaculate Heart of Mary Catholic Church to load them with wooden crosses, fence posts and post drivers, then spread out across town in teams to place them yards.

When Lent is over, the Knights will spread out over town again to remove the crosses, which will be saved for future years.

The IHM council spearheaded the project, taking the $20 orders as a fundraiser. Coordinator Stan Staab said the idea came from the Knights council in Russell County, where it’s been done for several years.

“We asked last year if we could borrow their idea and expand it to Hays. They said yes, graciously, and set us up with all the information they had and how they started,” Staab said.

Last year, the men built and placed about 251 crosses from 8-foot landscaping timber. This year, that number almost doubled.

Initially, when Lent began last year, the Knights had received about 135 requests.

“Then as people saw them after they went up, we started putting some in late. We finally had to just cut if off,” Staab said.

“So we had a bunch of new people this year, and then all the other councils that participated really boosted our numbers,” he said.

Councils from St. Joseph and St. Nicholas Catholic churches participated. Forms were taken to other parishes in the county as well, including Schoenchen.

Knights from Victoria were also placing crosses for parishioners of the Walker and Vincent churches, Staab said.

“We’ve had requests to go outside of our county already, but I think we’re going to just provide those Knights of Columbus with the information. It’s only feasible for us to stay in the county. We get too far out, it will be too much driving and everything,” he said.

The volunteers loaded up their trucks Saturday and, in teams of two or three, took off with their maps. Those who ordered the crosses were given small, white flags to mark where they wanted the crosses.

The crosses can be decorated, as long as they are not painted, Staab said.

“That way we can reuse them every year without having paint on them. We don’t mind about anything else,” he said.

The funds from the project pay for the materials, and the remaining proceeds are donated to Holy Family Elementary School, Thomas More Prep-Marian High School, the Mary Elizabeth Maternity Home and Catholic Charities, among others.

“We sponsor priests in the seminary every year. Every month we make checks out to people and send them for donations. So it’s a really good program.

“People really like to express their faith through this cross. We’ve had a lot of people comment on them, and then their donation does go to good use,” Staab said.