Two majestic hand-carved solid marble lions, a statue of Pope John Paul II and a large brick sign adorn the area surrounding the main entrance of St. Leo's Catholic Church in Minot.
The lions were a gift from specific contractors who worked on the restoration project at St. Leo the Great Catholic Church in 2011. The statue of Pope John Paul II was a gift from an anonymous donor.
Chris Sachs, senior project manager at Building Restoration Corp. in Minneapolis, said all contractors who worked on the major project at St. Leo's in 2011 were asked for donations toward the lions but not all of them did. The project involved a new roof on the church and 100 percent tuckpointing, which means taking the white grout off the masonry and some of the old red mortar out and replacing it with the red mortar that matches the brick and the original historic mortar color.
The Rev. Justin Waltz, pastor of St. Leo’s Catholic Church, in Minot, stands near one of the solid marble lions donated to the church. The astrological sign for Leo is the lion.
"The project was tight on the profit but Father (Austin) Vetter was pressing the contracting team hard from the start for some sort of give back," Sachs said. He added that BRC decided to press for the lions as a "give back" from the contracting team. Building Restoration Corporation, Dalsin Roofing, Solid Construction, Hight Construction, Deloughery Painting Company and Northern Plumbing and Heating were on board for the lions. Not all contactors donated to the cause.
"The drafter at BRC designed the lions. We worked with the St. Leo's Building Committee to finalize a design and size and then commissioned the carving, which took considerable time," Sachs said. "We drove the lions to Minot from Minneapolis and installed them," Sachs added. "All of this work was done at no cost to St. Leo's and everyone involved was happy to do it!"
The Rev. Justin Waltz, pastor of the church, spoke with exuberance.
John Paul II was acclaimed as one of the most influential leaders of the 20th century. He was head of the Catholic Church from Oct. 16, 1978, until his death in 2005. He is credited with helping to end Communist rule in his native Poland and eventually all of Europe.
"The lions are large and are solid marble," Waltz said. "They are drilled in and glued in place. They're not going anywhere," he said with a chuckle in his voice.
"We have a deep gratitude for the donation," Waltz said. "It was a pleasure working with the contractors. Plus the workers, the contractors and we at the church all benefitted spiritually from the project. Everybody took something away from the project."
The donor of the statue of Pope John Paul II would like to remain anonymous, Waltz said.
He added that in the midst of the whole reclamation project of the sanctuary an individual called and said "Father I have something really special for you that I would like to bring by. A donation to the church."
Waltz said he replied with a simple "OK."
"Then one day the individual appeared with a delivery truck and in the back of the truck was this beautiful statue of Pope John Paul II," Waltz added.
The statue was made by a man of Middle-Eastern origin and he has since died. It is one of several that were contracted for various reasons and the individual who gave it to the church came into possession of it and wanted to give something to St. Leo's.
The individual felt that with me being a young pastor, it would be a great gift for me because I'm a member of John Paul's generation, Waltz added.
There are several generations of priests, Waltz added. "I would be called one of the generation of John Paul's Soldiers. I went to the seminary during his time and I benefitted from his papacy all the way to the end. I was ordained shortly after his death.
"Every pope brings his own 'flavor' to the papacy and where the pope goes the church goes," Waltz said. "I have a deep, deep devotion to John Paul II."
The bronze statue has made a journey around the church. It was first located in the church but has now found a place on the east side of the church.
"Bronze metal statues traditionally should be outside," Waltz said. "We tried many different spots inside the church and he finally found his resting place outside. The statue is sort of a testament and a sign of his watchfulness not only to the people coming into the church but also to the youth."
Waltz added, "There's something very spiritual when I see his hands and how they are extended over Minot High School-Central Campus. As the students come and go each day, whether they are Catholic or non-Catholic this man was about all youth and making sure they got to heaven. In some mystical way, perhaps he is watching over them."