Painter Makes Tabernacle Fit for a King

Alexandria Smith, Web Master

A beautiful custom tabernacle adorns the chapel, but its creator isn’t an Italian master: The artist is maintenance painter David Randazza.

According to Chris Somers, Director of Campus Ministry, tabernacles are generally very expensive, regardless of the materials used – gold, silver or wood – so it seemed natural for her to request a custom wooden tabernacle from Randazza, who is a longtime woodworker.

“Someone had mentioned to me that he does woodworking, so I asked him at the beginning of the year if he could make us one. So, he said he would do it and we got him the dimensions and showed him pictures of what we wanted. So he’s very talented,” she said.

According to the Catholic faith, a tabernacle is a locked box where the Eucharist is stored. The new wooden piece is made of hand stained oak boards with a lock, base and Mercy Crosses burned onto each door. The project, which took Randazza over 30 hours to complete, may be special, but works like this are not new to him.

In addition to decades worth of painting experience, Randazza has worked with wood for most of his life. However, that does not mean that the tabernacle did not pose any challenges.

“Working in the hard oak was difficult. Oak is one of the hardest woods, so to cut it, and to sand it, and to drill it, and to burn it, was extremely hard. So that was one of the hardest issues was making it all out of oak,” said Randazza.

He said burning of the Mercy Crosses onto the front of the tabernacle, entirely by hand, was a painstaking process.

“That was very challenging and meticulous because, if I messed it up, I’d have to make a whole new door because you can’t erase it, so it was very hard. It took me over an hour, hour and a half just to draw them on there perfectly and then wood burn them,” he said.

The positive response he’s received from staff and students has made his effort worth it.

“I have received nothing but compliments since I put in there,” said Randazza “Fifty people have complimented me already on how nice it looks in there [in the chapel]. I mean, that’s all of that hard work and it’ll last 150 years,”

Randazza feels that the most rewarding part of the project was seeing the looks of surprise on everyone’s faces when he finally revealed his work.

“I think it’s a great thing [to have a custom tabernacle] because looking at other tabernacles in line, there are hundreds and hundreds of them, and trying to think, do you want silver, do you want gold, do you want wood? Then, the more decorations you have, the more decorations there are, the more expensive they are, or the more ornate they are,” Somers said.

Some might say it was miraculous that Campus Ministry had Randazza and his talents right on campus – often literally next door.

“So for him to basically say ‘I could make whatever you want,’ that’s great, and to have something handmade like that, by one of our employees, well that means a lot than just buying or purchasing one off of a website, you know?” said Somers.

Randazza said his work will be on campus long after staff, students and faculty are gone.

“I put all of my heart and soul into that baby and it will last 150 years. They will never need an- other, you know? That’s the thing about making something custom – that, and it’s the only one like it. It’s the only one in the world,” he said.

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