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Facelifts preserve clay, stone and concrete images

Restoration of St. John Center statues courtesy of Knights of Columbus

Published: October 22, 2016         
Aprille Hanson
Knights of Columbus member Bob Honzik (left) and grand knight Tom Donnelly, from Sacred Heart of Jesus Church in Hot Springs Village, discuss the damage on the Our Lady of Guadalupe statue at St. John Center in Little Rock.

Members of the Knights of Columbus council in Hot Springs Village wanted to give back to St. John Center in Little Rock for all it has offered Catholics around the state and found a fitting tribute by giving a fresh look to the campus’ four outdoor statues.

Grand knight Tom Donnelly and other knights who visited the center earlier this year felt the statues of Our Lady of Guadalupe, St. John the Baptist, Sacred Heart of Jesus and the Virgin Mary needed some attention.

“With all the kids and the people that use the facility of St. John Center, somebody should do something about that,” Donnelly  said. 

Within the past two months, Council 10208 raised $6,000, with councils in New Dixie and Morrilton and the state council chipping in another $1,000 to restore the statues to pristine condition, which was completed Oct. 11-14.

“I think it’s great that the knights have stepped up to take on this project. We have kind of a laundry list of things we’d like to have done on our campus here,” said Jim Driedric, diocesan property service manager, who has helped facilitate the project for the diocese.

He said while the diocese plans on making several improvements to the 100-year-old buildings on campus, there is a priority list and only so many funds.

“It’s a broader ownership of the diocese with churches and organizations out there that take pride and want things to look good (on campus).”

While the knights are known for parish involvement, charitable contributions and support of seminarian education, restoring the statues is another way to connect members to the diocese.

“To partner with other councils shows strength of the knights in Arkansas,” on this project, said Bob Honzik, a former grand knight in Hot Springs Village who has helped lead the charge for the restoration. “… I have a great deal of pride in this diocese and it’s the first time in my life that I’ve had the time to become involved in a parish and a diocese, and the leadership of this diocese is, I hate to use the word awesome, but they are definitely an inspiration.”

2 Boyz Blasting from Marion, Ill., came Oct. 11 to sandblast the statues, allowing Michele Bowman, owner of Restorations Plus in St. Louis for the past 23 years, to work her magic on “every crack, every seam, every chip and put the surfaces back into a pristine nature,” Donnelly said. Restorations Plus was chosen for their reputation and their work at dioceses throughout the Midwest.

“I told her when she was done I wanted the statues to look like new,” Donnelly said. “This climate with the mold and the mildew and the rain and heat is very tough on outdoor statues.”

The work required low-pressure sandblasting of St. John the Baptist and Our Lady of Guadalupe  without damaging the detail, adding two coats of primer, two coats of finishing paint and two coats of all-weather sealant to protect against deterioration.

Bowman also cleaned, repaired and sealed the marble Virgin Mary statue, which was missing thumbs and a pinky finger, for free and after arriving on campus Oct. 11, also agreed to clean, repair, paint and seal the Sacred Heart of Jesus statue next to Fitzgerald Hall.

“I still love it and have a passion for this,” said Bowman, who is Catholic and got into this line of work after asking herself, “What can I do with art and make an impact … make people feel closer to their faith.”

Donnelly said he hopes in December to have a plaque that denotes the K of C contribution to the restoration.

While there are more improvements that can be done on the St. John Center campus, including updated landscaping around Our Lady of Guadalupe and restoring the entrance gate, Donnelly said he hopes this first step encourages other councils to get involved.

“We’re trying to lead by example, set an example for others to emulate,” he said.

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