New elements compliment renovated St. Mary Church in David City
Story by S.L. Hansen
DAVID CITY (SNR) - When St. Mary Parish in David City completed the interior renovation of its church in late 2015, one element had to be left unchanged: their stations of the cross.
Dating from the 1970s, the existing stations were certainly serviceable, but they reflected some of the minimalistic design sensibilities of the era. Frankly, they looked rather stark compared to the Gothic features that make the renovated St. Mary Church such a liturgical jewel. (Click here for photos)
With the price tag of replacement Gothic-style stations ranging from $30,000 to $50,000, there was nothing to be done but wait and pray for a solution.
The solution came in the form of Wayne Ringer, who attends another diocesan St. Mary Parish – St. Mary in Denton, with his wife and children.
Two David City men, Jim Hain and Ray Kobza, worked with Mr. Ringer at the diocesan Leadership Camp for altar servers last summer.
“I had built the Adoration altar in the corn crib, the complete sanctuary in the Hollow (where Mass is celebrated daily), and the Marian altar for the Fatima procession,” Ringer said.
Hain and Kobza recognized quality craftsmanship when they saw it. Before long, Ringer was engaged to create Gothic-style plaster surrounds to hang behind each station.
“Luckily, the existing stations were not so modern that all beauty had been stripped from them,” Ringer said. “They were usable with only slight modification.”
Ringer is self-taught in plasterwork. He said he found a lot of helpful information on the Internet and honed his craft via trial and error as he made various castings and wall hangings.
For the David City project, he turned to the architect who handled the renovation, Kevin Clark of St. Teresa Parish in Lincoln, for some basic designs.
“I used several computer software programs to produce files that could be run on my computer-controlled router,” Ringer said, referring to the machine he used to create one wooden model of the final design.
In honor of the parish patroness, he also incorporated a couple of features in deference to Our Lady and her role in the Lord’s Passion. The row of beads shaped into the outer molding, for example, is a reference to the rosary.
“I would hope,” Ringer said, “that as you pray the stations you allow Mary to accompany you and whisper at each station, ‘This is how much my Son loves you; He suffered this for your salvation.’”
The model was used to make a rubber mold. Ringer then put plaster-cement around it to become a rigid “mother-mold” that kept each casting true.
For the top of each surround, he was able to make an exact replica of the spires at the top of the church’s high altar, by removing one of the spires and making a second mold.
Casting the surrounds themselves is a multi-step process. For each station, six or seven layers of an extremely hard Hydrocal plaster was brushed and poured onto the mold.
“One of those layers is actually a fiberglass layer that provides extra strength,” Ringer explained.
The spires were a bit easier. All they required was a thinner mix of plaster poured into a mold.
Brother Michael Mary, novice master of the Knights of the Holy Eucharist residing in the friary at Sacred Heart Parish in Lincoln, brought six of the order’s novices to help work on the sixth station, “Veronica Wipes the Face of Jesus.” In the spirit of the brothers’ charism to “foster reverent devotion to our Eucharistic King,” they spent one afternoon mixing plaster and applying it to the mold.
“We took this opportunity to broaden the formation of our novice class,” Brother Michael said. “Time permitting, the Knights of the Holy Eucharist will gladly assist in projects that help beautify the Church or its surroundings.
“Beauty leads us to the Divine,” he said, “who is the Author of all creation and beauty.”
Once each surround and spire was cast, Ringer dried them in his custom-built convection oven.
Then came the “muscle” part. Each of the surrounds measures 28 inches wide by 5 feet tall, and weighs about 100 pounds. Add in the mold and mother-mold, and there’s about 245 pounds of material to flip so that the casting could be removed.
“Several of my fellow parishioners at St. Mary Church in Denton have assisted me in turning over the casting/molding/mother-mold combo,” Ringer said gratefully.
The next step was covering the surrounds in a thin layer of bronze.
“It is real bronze, and thus I am able to apply acid to them to produce a patina, or rust,” Ringer explained.
To honor the Holy Mother, he chose a powder blue color for the patina. The solution was applied and allowed to sit for four to six hours before most of it was rubbed off with steel wool. This leaves patina only in the recessed areas. Finally, the surrounds were sealed with lacquer.
Seven surrounds were completed and installed in February. The last of the surrounds will be finished and installed by the Saturday before Palm Sunday.
The new surrounds not only make the parish’s stations look perfectly at home in the Gothic church, they saved the parish literally tens of thousands of dollars. Ringer only charged the cost of materials and asked the parish to make a modest donation to Sacred Heart Apostolic School in Indiana, where three of his sons are students.
The final effect of the new surrounds is a more beautiful, reverent way to pray the stations of the cross.
“They came together very well,” said Father Bernard Kimminau, pastor of St. Mary Church in David City, who has known Ringer since seminary. “Putting that frame around them really compliments the stations and makes them consistent with our architecture.”