A world away from Rome, the conclave and the papal watch there’s excitement at the local church level about something entirely different — but a celebration of the Catholic faith nonetheless. The excitement is in Wichita, Kan., about the completion of the renovation of the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception.
The Wichita Diocese selected Oregon sculptor Rip Caswell to create the dramatic monuments. Caswell has a reputation for historical accuracy and “painstaking attention to detail.”
“We selected Rip,” explains Msgr. Robert Hemberger, chairman of the Cathedral Arts Committee, “above all, because of his ability to capture the heart and soul of a subject — this especially comes through in the face and eyes of his work.”
The two sculptures, each standing taller than 7 feet and weighing approximately half a ton apiece, are of Mary and Joseph and of the Crucifix. They stand apart in separate east and west alcoves of the cross-shaped cathedral, facing one another across the open space.
“They appear connected, almost as though there is a conversation taking place,” Msgr. Hemberger said in a statement. “Mary and child, with Joseph by her side, has a distant look in her eyes, as though seeing her Son’s future.” About Caswell’s work the priest added: “We’re astounded by the beauty of what he’s created. It’s truly amazing.” Caswell’s figure of Christ on the cross is looking down but his face reflects a sense of calm and peace.
According to a news release, Caswell used wood from Israel and stones from the Jordan River for the cross and the base of his sculptures. A young Jewish girl was his model for Mary and Catholic seminarians were models for Christ.
The artist, who has created more than 200 sculptures, has been sculpting in bronze for 20 years. He was recently commissioned to create a national monument to five-star Fleet Adm. Chester W. Nimitz, scheduled to be unveiled Sept. 2 at Pearl Harbor.