Cathedral returns to its (miniature) beauty

September 27, 2012 by

Sacred Heart Cathedral has been restored to its original beauty, with stained-glass windows repaired, the exterior repainted, landscaping restored and a few cracks in the cardboard filled in with Elmer’s Glue.

Oh, did you think we meant the building at Iron and Ninth streets in Salina?

No, this is the model of the cathedral that has spent the last 20 years or so gathering dust and sustaining other damage in the basement of the building at Iron and Ninth in Salina.

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Sister Shirley Meier built the scale model in 1987, at the request of Msgr. John George Weber, as part of the 100th anniversary celebration of the Diocese of Salina.

Starting with sketches she made of the then-34-year-old cathedral and supplemented with photos taken by Sister Dorothy Marquez, Sister Shirley spent about eight months creating the model. It sits on a 27-by-50 inch table, and the steeple is 16 inches tall.

“I’d get up at 4 in the morning to work on it for a couple of hours before school,” recalls Sister Shirley, who was teaching second grade at Sacred Heart School at the time. “Then every evening I’d work on it, and weekends, and any spare minute I had.”

She crafted the entire building from cardboard, with each piece hand cut and glued to create both the sharp corners and the round pillars that mark the architecture of the 1953 structure.

For the stained-glass windows that line each side of the sanctuary, Sister Shirley used thin but rigid plastic that she “painted” with felt-tip pens.

It was Sister Dorothy’s idea to add a small light within the model to illuminate the windows.

The landscaping is all from the miniatures section of the craft store, while the handrails are reshaped paper clips and the entry doors are etched with gold ink to replicate the brass detail.

The most intricate reproduction may be the bas relief sculpture of the procession to Christ that graces one side of the cathedral’s main entrance.  Sister Shirley used photographs as her guide as she used an X-Acto knife to carve the figures from heavy cardboard.

“But don’t look too closely there,” she says with a laugh, waving away an onlooker.

When she completed the model, it graced the reception area of the cathedral during the 100th anniversary celebration. Then it was moved to a less conspicuous location toward the back of the cathedral’s main sanctuary. Eventually, it was moved downstairs.

“For a good 20 years, it’s been in the basement,” Sister Shirley said. “Things got put on top of it.”

Then, late in August, she got a call from Sister Carm Thibault, who serves as a pastoral associate for Sacred Heart Parish and has an office in the cathedral.

“Carm said they were cleaning out the basement and did I want the cathedral,” Sister Shirley says. “As it happened, we had somebody in Salina with a truck, so they went over and picked it up.”

And brought it back to the architect, as it were.

Since then, the cathedral and its table have taken up a considerable portion of the small “Sisters Services” office at the Nazareth Motherhouse that Sisters Shirley and Dorothy share.

And Sister Shirley has again devoted “any spare minute I had” to returning it to its original condition. With fresh touchup paint, new “grass” filling the “lawns” and a multitude of other repairs, it looks like it did when it was first completed 25 years ago. (It does not include the renovated main entrance or Hall of Bishops, Sister Shirley notes; those were a part of an expansion completed in 2000, well after the model was built.)

So where it will find a home for the next 25 years is still an open question. Sister Shirley hopes there might be a place for it to be displayed in the cathedral, and Sister Dorothy is contacting the Smoky Hill Museum in Salina.

“I’d hate to see it just go into storage again,” Sister Shirley says. “We saved it once, but I don’t know what will happen to it now.”




8 Responses to “Cathedral returns to its (miniature) beauty”

  1. Faye Huelsmann on October 4th, 2012 8:30 pm

    Shirley, the model looks beautiful. I hope I get to see it for real in November.

  2. Missy Ljungdahl on October 1st, 2012 7:07 pm

    Shirley, you are amazing! Thanks for doing this. It is a treasure.

  3. Diane Brin on October 1st, 2012 9:28 am

    Shirley, this is wonderful. I had no idea that you had done this lo these many years ago. And now your restoration efforts have paid off. It does deserve a special place of honor (as Sr. Ann Martin said)….a piece of beauty for sure. Blessings on the artist!

  4. Anne M. Reinert on September 28th, 2012 8:10 pm

    The Cathedral is beautiful, and needs a place of honor, the minature of the Mother house, is something I very much enjoy seeing in the Founders Room at Nazareth. S.Anne

  5. Carm Thibault on September 28th, 2012 4:35 pm

    Shirley, what a great job you did to restore the Cathedral! Thanks for your persistence and talent!

  6. Loretta A. Jasper, csj on September 28th, 2012 6:03 am

    Thanks to those who appreciate art and history, and continue to honor the person who crafts the work as well as the art form. This is comparable to a lovely antique, original paintings, weavings, pottery, etc..

  7. Rose Vineyard on September 27th, 2012 3:07 pm

    This truly shows your devotion, doing this again for a second time. As the best adopted sister to me, it also shows your kindness for taking it back and rebuilding it after all the damage it had. You show us all that caring is more important than anything. May the Lord take the Cathedral to a place where they know it’s importance and can care for it as you have.

  8. Gina Peltier on September 27th, 2012 12:00 pm

    I really like this model of the Cathedral. It’s certainly a tribute to your patience and artistic skill. I hope it finds a fitting home!

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