A senior at Canisius High School in Buffalo turned his craftsmanship skills into a project that reflects his Catholic faith on the grounds of his home parish. Joseph McEachon, 17, made an outdoor Stations of the Cross display at St. Gregory the Great Parish in Williamsville for his Eagle Scout project.
McEachon, an East Amherst resident who celebrates his 18th birthday this month, said the idea for the Stations of the Cross came from his previous experience as a sacristan at St. Greg's.
"I was kind of looking around and St. Greg's is a pretty big parish, so they have a lot already," McEachon said. "My mom is pretty big on the grotto and the adoration chapel. I wanted to do something outside."
After some research, McEachon got the idea for an outdoor Stations of the Cross and went to Father Leon Biernat, pastor of the parish, with his suggestion and rough ideas. McEachon crafted the stations out of solid bronze pieces that he ordered online.
"We wanted to make sure that they would last," McEachon said. "That was a big concern, that it wasn't going to be something that required a lot of maintenance. We wanted to build something that was really durable. They had other ones that were a little bit cheaper that would fade with the sun and the snow."
In addition to the bronze, the housing structures around the stations are made with composite decking material that resists rotting and rusting. He took various sizes of deck boards and screwed them together by hand. The posts are 4x4 wood posts covered with 4x4 composite decking sleeves, so the entire project is fully waterproof, as are the electrical components so it can stay outside all year long.
McEachon began ordering the parts for his project at the beginning of summer, but the actual building and construction took him approximately three weekends.
"One was a full Saturday," he said. "I was up at 6 a.m. packing the truck and everything, and a bunch of the scouts came and helped me. We worked all the way until 4 o'clock."
On another weekend, McEachon and his father spent about seven hours on the electrical work. The third weekend involved screwing together the houses and other components. An electrician came to do the final hookup. McEachon did a large percentage of the work at his house, including mounting the bronze pieces, and he learned some tips from the electrician.
McEachon said while he enjoyed the project and Father Biernat had told him he should go into business completing such projects, he plans to major in biology and pre-med in college. Now that the project is finished and McEachon has gotten positive feedback, he hopes his Stations of the Cross will serve as a "place for prayer and reflection for years to come," and that it will be an asset to the parish.
McEachon also hopes people will go to immerse themselves in the actual stations as another outlet or another route to praying that is different. Generally, when people attend the Stations of the Cross inside the church, they sit and don't move while altar servers carry a cross underneath each station. The parish also has pamphlets for its new outdoor stations.
"You can pick up a pamphlet when you first walk onto the path, and then as you walk around, you can look at the station, read about the thing and kind of walk through it," McEachon said.
McEachon said he owed special thanks to Joseph Couche, the buildings and grounds director, and Brian Schaefer, the parish electrician, for their help. Schaefer completed the electrical work and explained each step, and Couche told McEachon what needed to be done in terms of building permits and where all of the electrical wires were so he would not hit any of them while working on the project.
"It will hopefully open some doors for other scouts to think of, that we can add a lot to the parish here and maybe give back to the parish, and realize the community that we have at St. Greg's," McEachon said. "There's a huge community here at St. Greg's that some of the scouts and other people can tap into - the prayer side and the opportunity side that we have here at the parish."