She inspires others through her art

The art of liturgical decoration keeps Julie Craig busy and fulfilled

PLAINFIELD — Julie Craig has been a member of St. Paul Parish since birth. Her parents, Janet and Jerome Woyak, and her own family — husband Dale, sons Ken and Aaron, and daughter Katie — all are members and contribute to parish life.

Your Catholic Neighbor: Julie Craig (Ron Felten | For The Compass)

Craig is the liturgical environment coordinator, decorating and creating the worship space with displays, dressed figures and other items to reflect the Gospels. She started young as a freshman in high school by helping former coordinator Nancy Johnson.

“Nancy initially was decorating the old church then transitioned to the new building. She also was involved in the landscaping. She really knew her flowers,” Craig says. “Even now, decorating, I think of Nancy often.”

She says that decorating to express the message of the Gospels brings new meaning to the lessons. “If you can help relay that (message), it creates a more holy experience for the congregation, a means to experience inspirational worship.”

When the possibility of a new church building was addressed in 1987, Craig was asked to be on the construction committee. She was faced with many new decorating challenges when the new church building was dedicated in 1994.

“It really changed the environment,” she says. “The church was much bigger, and the size of the facility brought many challenges.”

Having had numerous priests serve at the parish has brought new perspectives and suggestions for how her displays can be constructed, she says.

Craig follows the liturgical calendar for each of her displays, portraying the theme of the Gospels and creating a visual display of what the Gospel is about. “I try to get the Scripture, the Word, out to the people to help them with the worship and understand the Gospel,” she says.

Some of her displays include the woman at the well, Lazarus, the Three Wise Men, and special displays for Easter and Christmas.

Her late father helped her in creating figures and dressing mannequins. Her husband, an engineer, has helped in moving parts of the scenes. Her children all have helped out, as well.

“There are many hours from my family,” she says. “We actually make scenes. We created a well with bricks. There was a little working cistern. Quotes are done on parchment. We create and figure things out and make stuff.  I try to change it up each time.”

Her time commitment can range from a couple of hours a week for a simple display to about 30 hours for Christmas displays. “I put up 13 trees,” she says. “It takes quite a bit of time.”

Parish members always willingly lend a hand when they are asked to help, Craig says, but timing often demands that she work alone. Craig is the director of imaging services at St. Michael’s Hospital in Stevens Point, so many of the hours she puts in at church are early in the morning or late at night.

And that’s all right with Craig. “It’s something I can give to the community, and it’s a time I can meditate and get close to God, as well,” she says. “Decorating is a hobby for me, and you should use your talent to do something good. “

Her children have followed in her footsteps. Her sons, Ken and Aaron, have been altar servers in the past, and her daughter, Katie, a high school senior, has contributed her sign language skills to various services, including one for Bishop David Zubik.

“They grew up helping,” Craig says. “To be able to create and do anything together helps with the closeness of my family.”

She feels that the decorating work that she does for St. Paul Parish is something that helps to bring her church family together, as well.

“The church is our holy, sacred place for us to worship in,” Craig says. “(Decorating that space) is something I can give to the community. The more you’re involved in your parish, the more it deepens your faith and helps give yourself to your community. The giving of yourself just gives you more of a closeness to God. Numerous people coming together as a community is the key to any parish.”

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Your Catholic Neighbor

Name: Julie Craig

Parish: St. Paul, Plainfield

Age: 55

Favorite saint: Teresa of Calcutta

Words to live by: “What if you woke up today with only the things you thanked God for yesterday?”

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