MENASHA — Go into just about any Catholic church and you’ll see statues in most every corner. The Council of Trent in 1566 explained this practice: “The images of Christ, the Virgin Mother of God, and the other saints are kept and honored in churches not because it is believed that there is any divinity or power in these images, or that anything may be asked of them or any faith put in them. The honor shown to them is really being given to the person whom they represent.”
That being said, Mike Quinn is using his decades of woodworking experience to display statues and other religious items at St. Mary Church in a fitting way. He is the craftsman behind 11 pedestals spread throughout the church and the Marietta Chapel.
Quinn belonged to St. Mary Parish when he was young, but his family moved to Mackville and he graduated from Hortonville High School. When he and his wife, Carol, were married in 1971, they joined St. Mary Parish. Their two sons went to St. Mary Catholic Schools. “I did industrial arts in high school. I enjoy working with wood so I just continued with that,” said Quinn.
Over the course of Quinn’s 30-year career as a millwright at American Can, Quinn used his woodworking and drafting skills to design and build his own house in Menasha, along with larger wood projects in his basement. “If someone needed a gun case, I built that. If someone needed a case for records or an entertainment center, dressers, desks, I built it,” he said.
Both Quinn and his wife were active parish volunteers when they were working, but they got much more involved once they retired. Quinn talked about how the pedestal project at St. Mary Church came about. “Fr. Paul Paider told me he needed some pedestals built for the Blessed Virgin and St. Joseph in the Marietta Chapel because the statues, which were donated, were repainted. After I got that done, then I built some pedestals to put the six-day vigil lights on.”
With those projects complete, Quinn noticed other pedestals that were in need of replacing. “I was serving Mass one time and I happened to look at the pedestals that the angels were sitting on and the closer I looked at them, the more I noticed that the bottoms were starting to deteriorate and the wood at the top was split,” he said.
All the pedestals are made from oak that Quinn picks up at a local home improvement store. The smaller pedestals take about a week and a half to make, but the larger ones are more time-consuming. “You’re looking at probably three weeks from start to finish, because there were so many different parts I had to make. Once you get your pattern set up, it goes pretty quickly,” he said.
When Quinn is not in his workshop he’s still involved with St. Mary Parish. He and Carol go to the Tuesday and Friday morning Masses, which they help set up. Quinn is an altar server both at daily Mass and at funeral Masses while his wife can be found in the choir for Masses and funerals. They were in the first Alpha class at their parish and are active Cursillo volunteers. He also has been involved in Boy Scouts for decades, and is chaplain for the Boy Scouts of America Bay-Lakes Council.
Quinn recently began readjusting the wooden missalette holders in all of the church’s pews. The parish switched over from the one-year, disposable missalettes to the three-year hard cover missalettes/hymnals that will last for years.
“You could fit them in the holders but it was way too tight, so they were afraid they would damage them. We want to maintain the hymnals,” said Quinn.
He was commissioned to make and install about 200 shims. “Whenever they need something, I get a call,” added Quinn.
If a fundraising effort goes well for St. Mary Parish, Quinn will create his 12th pedestal. Members of the parish want to purchase a statue of St. John Paul II. With a price tag of some $5,000, it may be a while, but Quinn said he will be ready when he gets the call.
While his work may be in the background and not always known by people attending Mass or visiting St. Mary Church, Quinn is fine staying out of the spotlight. “I don’t like notoriety, but I do like to make things look nice for the church,” he said. “These statues should be elevated in a proper, respectful way. That’s how they’re supposed to be.”