Restoration and Reunion

Restoration is not an unfamiliar concept to Christians. We are a resurrection faith. Our Lord Jesus Christ brings us from death to life, from the deepest depths to the highest heights. Though our most recent project here at La Salle Manor may only reach a few feet high, this project has been a stunning example of rejuvenation. In the end, this project turned into so much more than just a renovation. It became the catalyst for a joyful reunion with a youth retreatant from 30 years ago.

For 48 years, this tabernacle (pictured left) has served well as the keeper of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Our Lord Jesus Christ. The simple but beautiful mosaic on the face of this tabernacle has long been a prominent image in our chapel, but after long years of service, it needed to be replaced with something more secure. We were fortunate enough to have an old decommissioned tabernacle from St. Rita High School that we never had the opportunity to put into active service. Though this large golden tabernacle had potential and was in better structural condition, it still needed restoration before it would be functional.

The tabernacle cleaned up nicely (pictured left), and a new challenge presented itself. As you can see in the picture of the old tabernacle above, the stone tabernacle and the table it sat on are one piece. This meant we needed to create a table worthy of holding the Blessed Sacrament. We had several wood logs and pieces that were taken out of the three-season porch remodel and hoped we could somehow repurpose them for this table project. For help with this project we turned to Michael Miller.

As the owner of Miller’s Millwork, Inc., established in 1993 in Aurora Illinois, Michael has worked with numerous Catholic schools and churches to craft beautiful pieces of woodwork. Michael has done work for Marmion Academy and Aurora Central Catholic, both schools we work with in our retreat program. And the connections don’t stop there.

When Michael came to check out what we had to work with, he informed us that he was here on his junior and senior retreats 30 years ago. He was here in 1992 for a one-day Junior retreat and in 1993 for an overnight senior retreat with Aurora Central Catholic. He had such a vivid memory of his retreat that he was even able to point out which room he stayed in for his overnight retreat as a senior. The thing he remembers most about his experience is “the peacefulness felt during and after the retreat” and “being able to talk with classmates normally who were not in my small circle of friends.”

His experience here made an impact on him. “People would talk about issues in their private life, (and they) spoke of problems they were or are dealing with,” he recalled. Through those conversations Michael and his classmates were able to “give apologies for past acts that were hurtful. It changed the way I looked at my fellow classmates and was able to understand and sympathize with new friends and strengthen existing relationships.” Through Michael’s impactful experience and lasting memories, the “simple” construction of a table was elevated to a joy-filled reunion with a former retreatant.

After visiting the Manor, Michael got to work. The plan was to construct a table held up by a single pillar, a log from the renovated porch. This would be the most meaningful part of the table’s construction, but it would also provide the most difficulty. “The most challenging part,” said Michael, “was lathe turning the center post out of one single log. Having to epoxy fill cracks and making a turning that large straight, square, and sanded evenly” (pictured left). It was worth the trouble though as Michael shared that his favorite part of this project was, “being able to use logs originally part of the log cabin and being given the freedom to design a table that not only fit the space but blended into the existing décor.”

All in all, we could not be happier with the final product (pictured left). Not only was the project a great success in that we now have a safe and sacred place for Jesus to be and a table fit to hold Him, but in that we got to reunite with an old friend in the process. Reconnecting with Michael and hearing about his experiences at the Manor, gave this humble project a deeper significance. In the end, Michael put it best when he said, ” I am proud I was able to build an item that holds Our Lord in a place that brings peace and comfort to so many.”

Thank you, Michael!

Bradley Kigyos – Assistant Retreat Director