Friday, August 21st, 2009
By Shelley Grieshop
St. Gaspar returns home
  MARIA STEIN - Artist Brent Cress says it's an odd feeling waking up to the outstretched arm of St. Gaspar.
Cress' comment gets a round of smiles from onlookers at the Maria Stein Center where he speaks about his experience restoring the Italian-crafted statue of the founder of the Missionaries of the Precious Blood. The work was completed in his tiny, one-bedroom apartment in Lima.
"I'd wake up every morning with his arm hanging over me," he explains as he re-installs the statue to its outdoor home in the statue garden behind the center.
The statue was extensively damaged in August when it fell over during a windstorm early in the morning. One arm was completely broken off, the face was crushed and a crucifix held outwardly was in pieces.
"When I got it, there were three cardboard boxes full of parts," says Cress, an independent and international artist with 10 years experience in traditional sculpting and restoration.
It took Cress approximately 170 hours to complete the restoration process, he adds.
The statue was obtained in 2004 and placed on the sprawling Maria Stein property, where it is considered a treasured gift. St. Gaspar is considered the link between the Sisters of the Precious Blood and the Missionaries of the Precious Blood.
The restoration is part of preparations by the Sisters of the Precious Blood as they celebrate the 175th anniversary of their congregation.
St. Gaspar was born in Rome in 1786 and ordained a priest in 1808. Shortly after, he refused to vow his allegiance to Napoleon and was exiled. In 1819, he founded the Precious Blood congregation with the approval of Pope Pius VII.
He died Dec. 28, 1836, and was canonized in 1954. His feast day is Jan. 2.
It's a sunny day and Cress and his assistant place the statue back on its cement podium on a hill overlooking rolling farm fields. Sister Regina Albers, an archivist, offers a little historic insight as the refinished statue is examined more closely.
"He was only 5 feet tall in real life," she says with a smile, as everyone gazes at the much taller image before them.
Cress comments about other colossal features he's noticed, such as Gaspar's very large and ill-proportioned hands. Many statues today that honor saints and other dignitaries often are given exaggerated likenesses, he adds.
Cress has several years experience in ecumenical restorations in the Northwest Ohio region and his architectural restorations are registered with the National Historical Society. His sculptures have been exhibited at regional arts organizations and his work has been shown in private collections around the country.
Cress is known for the work he's completed for churches, art galleries, and corporate and public entities. He has a diverse repertoire, creating artwork in a variety of materials, techniques and sizes and using modern methods with a sense of old world craftmanship.
The Maria Stein Center including the relic chapel, the museum and the Pilgrim Gift Shop is open from noon to 4:30 p.m. Tuesday through Sunday, excluding holidays.
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