CS PHOTO BY JACLYN LIPPELMANN At his workshop in Frederick, carpenter Doug Fauth cuts a board that he will use for one of the chairs at Pope Francis’s Sept. 23 Mass outside the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception.
CS PHOTO BY JACLYN LIPPELMANN At his workshop in Frederick, carpenter Doug Fauth cuts a board that he will use for one of the chairs at Pope Francis’s Sept. 23 Mass outside the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception.
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It’s probably safe to say that the team of carpenters and woodworkers constructing the furniture for Pope Francis’s Sept. 23 Mass outside the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception have more advanced tools than St. Joseph, the patron saint of carpenters, did.

On Aug. 17, Deacon Dave Cahoon – the carpenter who built the altar and chair for Pope Benedict’s 2008 Mass at Nationals Park and who is building the altar for Pope Francis’s canonization Mass for Blessed Junipero Serra in Washington – assembled his team of craftsmen and artists building the furniture for the Papal Mass. They gathered for a media briefing at Carriage Hill Custom Cabinets & Millwork in Frederick, a workshop owned and operated by Doug Fauth, a friend of Deacon Cahoon who is building the pope’s chair, two deacon’s chairs and eight benches for the Mass.

Fauth and his wife and two children are members of St. Ignatius Parish in Urbana, where he assisted Deacon Cahoon in the renovation of the pews at that historic Maryland church.

At his Carriage Hill workshop, Fauth demonstrated the CNC – computer numerically controlled – machine that he is using to cut medium density fiberboard for the chairs, which will be covered with a thin veneer of cherry wood. 

“I can carve your name in a board,” he said, describing the precision cuts that can be made using a computer aided drafting program, which he uses to input the dimensions and create the shape and profile of the pieces for the chairs. He demonstrated how the programmed information guided the machine as it made grooved cuts on the edge of a board, where sections of the chair will be fitted together.

A native of Pittsburgh, Fauth said, “I’ve been doing this (carpentry) since I was really small… I’ve just always enjoyed building things since I was a little kid.”

He noted that his dad was a nuclear engineer, who built two homes for their family. So in addition to building things like bird houses as a Cub Scout, Fauth got to watch and learn from his father. “The construction site was my playground,” he said.

Fauth earned a chemical engineering degree from the University of Maryland at College Park, but he has made carpentry his life’s work. “We’re always making parts for something,” he said, noting that his firm’s typical work includes building kitchen cabinets and counter tops.

In addition to building the chairs for the Papal Mass, Fauth cut out arches for the altar and ambo that Deacon Cahoon and his assistant, Carlos Hernandez, are building. Three of Fauth’s workers are assisting him on the project. The carpenter said he is inspired by Pope Francis, and honored to do his part in constructing the furniture for the Papal Mass.

“It’s a great honor. How can you say no?” said Fauth.

That sentiment was also expressed by Lawrence Wroten, another friend of Deacon Cahoon, who created a relief carving of the papal seal out of cherry wood, to be used on the seat back of the papal chair at the Mass.

Wroten works as a designer at the National Center for Neutron Research in Gaithersburg, where he designs shielding and instrumentation for scientists doing physics research. Woodworking is his hobby, he explains, and after the church at his home parish, St. Peter in Libertytown, Maryland, burned down about 10 years ago, he built an altar and tabernacle for the daily Mass chapel there, and cabinets for storing altar cloths.

“This is a cool project,” he said of his work in carving out the papal seal for the back of Pope Francis’s chair. “I don’t look at it as work.”

On Wroten’s blog, he describes the steps that he took in carving the papal seal, beginning with several days that the spent creating a 3-D model to program into his CNC machine. All told, he spent about 40 hours designing, programming, cutting and then refining the papal seal, finishing the work with careful carving done by his hand-held tools.

The project, he said, has been challenging, rewarding and humbling, knowing that his woodworking will be used by Pope Francis at his Mass at the National Shrine.

“I do it for the Church,” he said. “…It’s a way of giving back… (and) using the talents God gave me to give back to the Church.”

Another friend of Deacon Cahoon, Karen Kouneski, is an artist who paints murals and faux finishes, and she will be applying gold-leaf and mother of pearl white mosaic tiles to form an ornate symbol representing Christ for the front of the altar.

A member of St. Mary Parish in Barnesville, where Deacon Cahoon serves, Kouneski said that being able to contribute artwork for the Papal Mass furniture “is an honor. Truthfully, it’s undescribable…” 

Speaking of how she approaches producing artwork for the Church, she said, “I always say, ‘God, guide my hands.’ I’m his tool. He works through me. That’s what I believe with all my heart. I wouldn’t be here without him.”