Cross is labor of love for parish custodian

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crossThe 14-foot crucifix, constructed by Bill Jecevicus of barn beams, hangs in St. Anne Church, Pleasant Prairie. The corpus, standing approximately seven feet tall, was created by Demetz Studios in Ortisei, Italy. (Catholic Herald photos by Allen Fredrickson)When St. Anne Catholic Church in Pleasant Prairie wanted to encourage parishioners to focus on the ordinary, yet powerful symbol of the crucifix, they asked for assistance from one of their most dedicated servants, Bill Jecevicus. A retired sheet metal worker, the 66-year-old parishioner works as the parish custodian and all-around handyman. A member of the parish since its inception 13 years ago, the unassuming man works behind the scenes, content to quietly live his faith in service to others. When St. Anne pastor, Legion of Christ Fr. Robert Weighner needed help building and installing a mammoth crucifix, Jecevicus was the natural choice.
“We were blessed with a generous and anonymous donation to fund this crucifix,” explained Fr. Weighner. “Thanks be to God! The cross was handcrafted out of barn beams by Bill, and we are grateful for his skill in crafting the cross and his efforts in precisely planning the hanging of the crucifix.”
Upon receiving the donation, Fr. Weighner commissioned Demetz Studios in Ortisei, Italy, to carve the corpus for the crucifix. The sizes of the corpus and the cross were determined based on conversations with the architect who designed St. Anne Church. The corpus stands approximately seven feet tall, with the wooden cross approximately 14 feet tall.
The request to construct the cross was viewed not as work, but as an incredible honor for Jecevicus who began discussions about the design with Fr. Weighner six months ago.
“Three months later, he ordered the corpus and asked if I was still interested in and had the materials to construct a cross for the church,” he explained. “I said yes, and the cross hanging above the altar is the result.”
While he has constructed various pieces of furniture out of old barn beams and boards for himself and his wife, Janice, family and friends, this was his first cross. The project cost Jecevicus approximately $60 for materials and took about a week for construction.
“I cleaned, sanded, fit and varnished the barn beams, and welded the chains to the proper length (for hanging),” he explained. “The wood and chains that I used were from salvaged material.”
As he neared the day to place the corpus and hang the crucifix, Jecevicus was startled to dream eight separate nights about the procedure.
“In my dreams, I loaded the two pieces of the cross and chain, took them to church and arrived there with no damage. After the cross was at church in the two pieces, the first thing I did, was to hang the chains,” he said. “We took the nine-foot cross member up to test for position, levelness, etc.,  and then we took the member down, bolted the cross together and mounted the corpus on the cross. With help, we put the crucifix on the lift, took it up, connected the chains, slowly lowered the lift and the crucifix was installed. My dreams were surprisingly pretty much as it happened. I believe that I went over and over it so often in my mind that my subconscious took over in my sleep.”
Parish communications volunteer Margie Mandli remembered the first day she met Jecevicus, and admitted she was surprised by the man behind the beard.
“He was sort of intimidating,” she confessed. “He reminds me of a ‘mountain man,’ and Fr. Bob calls him ‘Man Mountain.’ But right after I met him, I knew he was just a big teddy bear with a huge heart and love for the Lord.”
Mandli said watching Jecevicus think through and direct the installation of the crucifix at church was a powerful experience.  She said she was very moved to hear of his recurring dreams.

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