By Daniel Payne
Special to The Message
Editor’s note – Atop the Baldacchino of St. Benedict Cathedral stands a 6-foot statue of Jesus, His Sacred Heart exposed and arms outstretched to welcome all to worship. Above the altar is a 9-foot-tall crucifix. Its Corpus, or Body of Christ, is about the same size as the statue. Many will view these as new additions to the cathedral, but that’s not accurate. Parishioner Daniel Payne, a senior at Evansville’s Central High School, graciously agreed to share with The Message his story of turning his Eagle Scout project into a glorious work of restoration and renewal.
My interest in the statue and the crucifix came when I was in the St. Benedict Parish Center and saw pictures of the church from the 1960s. In one photo, the Sacred Heart statue was on top of the baldacchino and the mission cross was on the floor in the church in a stand. Around Christmastime, I was helping move Christmas trees and decorations, and in the back corner of the room where the trees were stored was the Sacred Heart statue. It was discolored and had some damage. This is when I first began thinking over the idea of how I could do something with the statue and crucifix to complete my Eagle Project; it was July 2017.
A few months later, I asked (Rector) Father Godfrey Mullen about the Crucifix in the picture, and he told me that the Corpus was in the basement of the Parish Center. The Corpus was in pieces, scratched up and damaged. I also asked Father Godfrey if he knew anything about where the old mission cross was located. He gave me some ideas, and I began to look around.
One of the areas he suggested was a storage area above the cry room in the cathedral. That was where I found the mission cross.
I set up a meeting with Father Godfrey and told him that I had found the mission cross, the Corpus and the Sacred Heart Statue. I offered to raise the money needed, as part of my Eagle Project, to send them off to get refurbished so we could put them back into church. Father liked the idea, especially since he was already working on the plans to renovate the church. Father and I made a plan to send the statues to Trinity Church Supply in Cincinnati, and I was going to sand and stain the mission cross. I also offered to build nine shadow boxes for the three church entrances so that Father could display whatever he wanted in those areas.
After many months of planning, meetings and discussions with members of my Scout Troop 318 and Father, I went before the Eagle Board for approval. The Eagle Board approved my project, and I began immediately with the fundraising aspect of my project. I needed to raise about $6,600 to be able to complete my entire project.
It took six months to raise the necessary funds. Trinity came in April 2018 to pick up the statues. I, along with a few scout leaders, helped load them onto the truck, and off they went. Trinity needed 4-6 months to get the refurbishing done.
I then began working on sanding the cross. With supervision from my grandfather and scout leaders, I sanded it down to its original form and varnished it. The cross was originally 11 feet tall but I had to trim it down to 9 feet to fit with the renovation plans. The width of the cross is 6-feet. The Sacred Heart statue and the Corpus are both about 6-feet-tall.
The Sacred Heart statue sat on top of the baldacchino from the time that the church was built until sometime around the church’s first renovation when the baldacchino was moved forward in the sanctuary. When the statue was removed in order to move the baldacchino, the decision was made to put the statue into storage. The statue was painted a gray color to make it appear to be concrete like the other statues on top of the baldacchino. Father Godfrey and I agreed to restore the statue to the traditional colors of the Sacred Heart.
I don’t know a lot about the history of the mission cross.
The last part of my project was some shadow boxes. I built nine shadow boxes using the old bleacher wood from the school gymnasium. They hang at all the entrances displaying pictures of the church from before, during and after the renovation. They are approximately 36 inches by 24 inches. This is the part of the project where I was able to lead the scouts and allow them to do most of the work. We had to cut and sand each board, form them into the boxes and stain them. This took several weeks, and many scouts participated in this important part of my project.
Trinity returned the Sacred Heart statue and Corpus in August 2018. We stored them in Father Godfrey’s basement until March 2019, when the construction people used their scissor lifts to install them. The shadow boxes were mounted in October 2019.
I took a few weeks to complete the required paperwork and again worked with my scout leaders to prepare myself for my final board of review. I went to my board in May and was approved. I earned my Eagle Scout Rank!
Many people helped make my project a success, and I would like to thank some of them: Father Godfrey, for allowing me and encouraging me to complete the project; my parents, who were great support and encouragement for me; Jeremy Korba, who gave me advice and helped me with the design and printing of the displays in my shadow boxes; my grandfather, for his expert advice and help with sanding and staining the mission cross; my fellow scouts, who volunteered many hours to cut, sand, stain and varnish all the boards we used; all my donors, without whom I could never have started my project; my brother and mentor Andrew, for his support; and especially, my Scout Master Francis Brickey, who helped me every step of the way, taught me many things about sanding, cutting and staining wood, and donated his time and tools to make sure I was able to do my project. I learned a lot working on this project and I couldn’t have done it without all of them assisting me. My hope is that, for many years to come, the Sacred Heart statue and the Crucifix will allow everyone to give praise and glory to God every time they see them.