Jesus and the other Biblical figures in the historic artwork needed a little help. Twenty-five years ago, the parishes of Saint Boniface and Saint James in Ludlow, Ky., merged, bringing together the German Catholic and Irish Catholic congregations of the small river city across from downtown Cincinnati. At the time, the plaster relief Stations of the Cross taken from Saint James, which were crafted in 1905, were simply stored in a cellar. Last year, though, the church began a major renovation and wanted to hang the Stations. When church officials dug them out of the cellar, though, they made a sad discovery: the art fell into disrepair during its years in storage.
Given the parish’s size—Saints Boniface and James counts maybe 400 members—funds were at a premium. Members were doing most of the work to the church to save money, but the old Stations of the Cross needed professional restoration, something beyond its parishioners’ skills. So Mary Beth Muntel, a 1971 Edgecliff graduate and the church’s director of religious education, called Xavier’s art department and found Kelly Phelps, a sculptor and an assistant professor of art. He and his twin brother Kyle, a professor at the University of Dayton, offered to fix the broken sculptures.
“Kelly was so nice and so interested in these old Stations,” Muntel says. The Phelps brothers work on several pieces at a time, then return them to the church where members repaint them. The plan, according to Muntel, is to have all the work completed for the church’s anniversary celebration in October.
Better yet, from the parish’s point of view, the brothers donated their efforts. “It is just a wonderful thing that Kelly’s doing,” she says. “Without him, they wouldn’t have been done.”