Written by Karen Mahoney, Special to your Catholic Herald Thursday, 13 October 2011 08:27
A retired sheet metal worker, the 66-year-old parishioner works as the parish custodian and all-around handyman. A member of the parish since its inception 13 years ago, the unassuming man works behind the scenes, content to quietly live his faith in service to others. When St. Anne pastor, Legion of Christ Fr. Robert Weighner needed help building and installing a mammoth crucifix, Jecevicus was the natural choice.
“We were blessed with a generous and anonymous donation to fund this crucifix,” explained Fr. Weighner. “Thanks be to God! The cross was handcrafted out of barn beams by Bill, and we are grateful for his skill in crafting the cross and his efforts in precisely planning the hanging of the crucifix.”
Upon receiving the donation, Fr. Weighner commissioned Demetz Studios in Ortisei, Italy, to carve the corpus for the crucifix. The sizes of the corpus and the cross were determined based on conversations with the architect who designed St. Anne Church. The corpus stands approximately seven feet tall, with the wooden cross approximately 14 feet tall.
The request to construct the cross was viewed not as work, but as an incredible honor for Jecevicus who began discussions about the design with Fr. Weighner six months ago.
“Three months later, he ordered the corpus and asked if I was still interested in and had the materials to construct a cross for the church,” he explained. “I said yes, and the cross hanging above the altar is the result.”
While he has constructed various pieces of furniture out of old barn beams and boards for himself and his wife, Janice, family and friends, this was his first cross. The project cost Jecevicus approximately $60 for materials and took about a week for construction.
“I cleaned, sanded, fit and varnished the barn beams, and welded the chains to the proper length (for hanging),” he explained. “The wood and chains that I used were from salvaged material.”
As he neared the day to place the corpus and hang the crucifix, Jecevicus was startled to dream eight separate nights about the procedure.
“In my dreams, I loaded the two pieces of the cross and chain, took them to church and arrived there with no damage. After the cross was at church in the two pieces, the first thing I did, was to hang the chains,” he said. “We took the nine-foot cross member up to test for position, levelness, etc., and then we took the member down, bolted the cross together and mounted the corpus on the cross. With help, we put the crucifix on the lift, took it up, connected the chains, slowly lowered the lift and the crucifix was installed. My dreams were surprisingly pretty much as it happened. I believe that I went over and over it so often in my mind that my subconscious took over in my sleep.”
Parish communications volunteer Margie Mandli remembered the first day she met Jecevicus, and admitted she was surprised by the man behind the beard.
“He was sort of intimidating,” she confessed. “He reminds me of a ‘mountain man,’ and Fr. Bob calls him ‘Man Mountain.’ But right after I met him, I knew he was just a big teddy bear with a huge heart and love for the Lord.”
Mandli said watching Jecevicus think through and direct the installation of the crucifix at church was a powerful experience. She said she was very moved to hear of his recurring dreams.
“I get teary just thinking about it again,” she said. “He showed the photographer and me the crate in which the corpus was stored. His voice seemed a bit nervous, and he proceeded to tell me about the many dreams he had leading up to this day – ‘I haven’t dropped the crucifix in any of the dreams I’ve had – so let’s hope those dreams come true.’ I felt a real concern in his voice. He carried with him so much responsibility in getting this right; and he cared. That was most obvious.”
When the lift arrived, Jecevicus and parishioner Fred Currubba worked to put the corpus together and mount it on the cross. Looking on, Mandli said she witnessed much goodness and cheer in both gentlemen who made the work seem not only effortless, but also fun, and frequently joked with Fr. Weighner during the installation.
For Fr. Weighner, having Jecevicus at the heart of the project made all the difference.
| If you would like to attend:
St. Anne Catholic Church
9091 Prairie Ridge Blvd.
Pleasant Prairie, Sunday,
Oct. 23 Mass at 10:15 a.m.
Jerome E. Listecki presiding
“It was providential to have Bill on this project; he helped to make it happen,” he said. “He was so gracious. Anytime I tried to thank him for all of his work, Bill quickly shot back, ‘Thank you for the opportunity to work on this. It is a once in a lifetime opportunity, a blessing.’”
Ironically, Jecevicus was the first parishioner Fr. Weighner met one Sunday morning at St. Charles Borromeo, his former parish in Genoa in the La Crosse Diocese. According to Mandli, Jecevicus was curious about the new the pastor because he knew that he was due to arrive at St. Anne soon.
“‘I wanted to check out this priest coming to St. Anne,’ Fr. Bob recalled Bill saying,” laughed Mandli. “Since then, the two of them have become close friends and Fr. Bob relies on his gifts and talents. Everyone has different gifts and Bill’s trade has been an unbelievable gift to our parish. His humility and servant approach is most endearing. He doesn’t look for recognition or want the limelight; instead he just works hard for the parish, behind the scenes. Many people probably don’t even realize all that he does for us. We are blessed.”
On Sunday, Oct. 23, during the 10:15 a.m. Mass, Archbishop Jerome E. Listecki will dedicate the new crucifix and officially install Fr. Weighner as the new pastor of St. Anne.
“The crucifix has immense significance in our Catholic tradition,” Fr. Weighner explained. “It represents the saving grace we received when Jesus died on the cross. Here at St. Anne, the crucifix provides opportunity for all of us to meditate on this mystery more fully and allow us to encounter Christ in a more profound way.”