Editor's Note: Oct. 22 is the feast of St. John Paul II
Story by S.L. Hansen
HASTINGS (SNR) – Four Crowns Statuary of Hastings and Lincoln has worked with Nebraska artist Sondra Jonson to create a new, affordable concrete statue of St. John Paul II. The statue will be available for sale in November and can be made in a variety of color schemes.
Four Crowns is a family business run by Nick Brouillette, his older brother Blake, and their uncle Mark.
The idea for the business started two years ago, when Nick and Blake, both college students, were looking for summer jobs. Another uncle, Jim, had been planning to restart the family statuary business that their grandfather had run in the 1970s and 1980s, but hadn’t found the time to do so.
The Brouillettes realized that they finally had everything they needed to restart the business. Uncle Jim had kept all of the original molds, Nick and Blake had plenty of time and energy, and grandfather Larry had the know-how. Jim, Mark, and John – Nick and Blake’s dad – also helped train the two younger men.
“I think my dad and all my uncles had worked for my grandfather,” Blake said. “It took us a good while to learn what we were doing and to master the craft.”
He noted that even competitors have been very generous in helping them learn the art of concrete statuary.
“They really mentored us and took us under their wings,” Blake said. “It’s kind of a dying field right now. Since we are young and energetic about it, they were willing to help us as much as they could.”
Four Crowns Statuary soon started production.
“It was my uncle Jim who came up with that name,” Blake said. “Having patron saints of a business is so powerful. The Four Crowned Martyrs were artisans and sculptors just like we are. They went through persecution and held strong to the faith.”
While Four Crowns offers bird baths, planters, benches and other figures in a variety of colors and finishes, their main focus will be on religious statues.
“In the last year we’ve realized the impact that ‘drive-by evangelization has,’ and it has made us want to focus on religious statuary,” Blake said. “We have the thirst and desire to have Catholicism all over the place and to evangelize through statues.”
When Pope St. John Paul II was canonized, the Brouillettes decided it was time to create a new mold.
“We realized the impact he had on so many lives and still does, and we could not find any concrete statues that people could buy at an affordable price,” Blake said. “We wanted something that could be mass-produced and spread his mission.”
Though they hadn’t the least idea how to go about it, the Brouillettes began searching for a sculptor. A seminarian at St. Gregory the Great in Seward mentioned Sondra Jonson of Cambridge, an experienced sculptor with several religious works to her credit. She also happens to have a son in the seminary.
The Brouillettes were impressed with her emphasis on traditional Catholicism.
“We realized how amazing an opportunity it was for both of us,” Blake said.
Though Jonson generally focuses on bronze, she readily agreed to adapt to concrete for this venture. She made a 33-inch statue of St. John Paul II out of clay, adding the touches she and the Brouillettes agreed on, such as the rosary in his hand and the scroll near his feet emblazoned with his papal motto, “Totus Tuus.”
Jonson also taught Nick and Blake how to make a mold of the original clay sculpture so that they can reproduce it in concrete.
With Blake serving as a Christ in the City missionary in Denver right now and Nick back in classes at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, Four Crowns has had to move operations from Hastings to Lincoln. A friend has been recruited to help with production, but they will not have the new St. John Paul II statues available for sale until November.
The brothers plan to donate a few to the priests and parishes that have had significant influence on their faith, but anyone can pre-order one through their website.
“We want everyone to have one,” Blake said.
Meanwhile, they plan to continue their partnership with Sondra Jonson to add to their line of religious statues.
“We thought of quite a few… Mother Theresa, Father McGivney who started the Knights of Columbus,” Blake said. “Depending on how the John Paul II statue goes, Sondra is definitely wanting to work with us more. She has a passion for evangelization, same as we do.”
Blake expressed his gratitude to everyone who helped them launch Four Crowns.
“Through the generosity of others, the help of our family, and honestly, just thanks be to God, there was so much interest in statues,” he said. “We just realized as college students, our uncle was giving us an opportunity that’s more than just your college job. It’s been the greatest life lesson we’ve ever learned.”