A few days before Pentecost Sunday, an 11-foot crucifix was raised and mounted on the right side of the sanctuary at St. Joseph Church in Hanover. The old adage, “Easier said than done,” was never truer in this major engineering feat, which was expertly completed by Conewago Enterprises on May 28.
Originally planned to be installed prior to Easter, the Covid-19 pandemic delayed the project, according to Mgsr. James Lyons, pastor. The current church was built in the 1970s, and its sanctuary is flanked by a massive brick wall in which a large statue of the Good Shepherd is center mounted over the altar. To remove this depiction would have involved substantially altering the foundation of the church building, so the decision was made to add a large crucifix to the right to augment the sanctuary above the tabernacle.
The beautiful crucifix is estimated to be more than 100 years old, and at one time it hung in a Pittsburgh area parish. The corpus was in dire need of restoration, and the century-old rugged wooden cross was also restored.
What made raising and hanging the crucifix onto a flat brick surface so challenging was the size and the weight of the art. Three members of Conewago – after project manager Zach Wentz designed the mounting brackets – had to carefully hoist the several-hundred-pound crucifix by hand and rope support via elevator lift truck to secure it into the slide-in brackets. With nearly 75 years of combined Conewago experience between them, Rob Little and foreman Randy Amspacher improvised several times with the aid of Jesus Sanchez to hoist the crucifix in the exact manner required to secure the strikingly-detailed corpus. Father Matthew Morelli, parochial vicar, also helped prepare the corpus for the tense lifting operation.
The lighting fixtures were adjusted so that the new addition will always have a soft spotlight on it.
“We did not have a crucifix that was visible in the church except for the processional cross, which in relation to the church is very small. This beautifully restored crucifix makes a statement as it is meant to do,” Msgr. Lyons said. “It is on the wall above the tabernacle, plainly there for all to see.”
Father Joseph Gotwalt, former pastor of St. Joseph’s and now retired, said, “This crucifix was made for that wall. It blends in with the whole church very nicely.”
The Parish Council was unanimous in recommending the purchase of the crucifix, Msgr. Lyons said, seeing it is filling a void inside the church.
“The faithful coming into the church for the first time in months and seeing the new crucifix in place on Pentecost Sunday were very happy with it,” Msgr Lyons noted.
Story, photos and video by Chris Heisey, The Catholic Witness