WINDSOR, Colo. — Before the COVID-19 pandemic, elementary students from Sacred Heart Academy in Eaton, Colo., were “playing church” with a little help from tools similar to those Jesus used as a carpenter.
More than 40 students learned basic woodworking skills thank to members of the Knights of Columbus from Our Lady of the Valley Council 11575. Throughout eight workshops, the Knights taught students construction methods and how to use hand tools to stimulate interest in woodworking. The sessions culminated in the construction of a scaled down version of a church, complete with furnishings while learning about the beauty of Catholic liturgical items.
James Bramer, program director for Our Lady of the Valley Council 11575, was one of the teachers — or “Woodchucks,” as the Knights called themselves. He was part of a group of Knights who built altar furniture for Our Lady of the Valley Church in Windsor, Colo., in 2011 that gained attention in the region for its craftsmanship.
So when Jennifer Powell, principal of Sacred Heart Academy, approached the church for help in teaching the students woodworking, Bramer and the Knights were glad to step up.
For three-hour sessions during the eight-week program, Knights went to Sacred Heart Academy and showed the students, ranging from ages 5 to 12, simple woodworking skills. Bramer started with the basics, connecting their teachings to Jesus’ carpentry.
“We started off Biblical, we had hand tools, saying this is what Jesus would’ve used in his carpenter shop,” Bramer said. “We were teaching them this is how they did it back then, and this is how we do it now.”
During spring 2019, the students learned how to hammer nails, drive screws and use power tools. They utilized those new skills, building plywood toolboxes and picture frames.
With summer approaching, the Knights organized another project with the students — a scaled-down church on the school’s property. The idea came to Bramer after browsing the web and seeing a father constructing a playhouse for his daughter.
Bramer said he was impressed by the students’ avid enthusiasm. Throughout the construction period, Bramer and the Knights used the tiny church as a catechesis tool, and completed it with a crucifix, and chalice. The students responded in kind, treating the church as a reverent space.
Bramer hopes to return to Sacred Heart Academy to continue teaching future generations not only about woodworking, but also about Catholic devotion and manhood.
“The point is to give an example and to say that ‘Hey, I’ve been a Catholic all my life and this is very important to me,’” Bramer said. “‘We want to tell you that we’ve been doing this for a long time, for a lot of years and it means something.’”
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