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Faith

Everest Academy community in Lemont creates replica of Holy Doors

Handmade replica of Holy Doors a source of Lenten reflection at Everest Academy

The Holy Doors replica is on display in the front entrance to Everest Academy in Lemont.
The Holy Doors replica is on display in the front entrance to Everest Academy in Lemont.

LEMONT – For Christians, anytime is a good time to contemplate God’s mercy.

But during this Lenten season, the community at Everest Academy in Lemont created a unique item for this reflection, consistent with its Catholic faith and Pope Francis’ call for a Jubilee Year of Mercy.

With the guidance of kindergarten through eighth grade art teacher April Wadsworth, the students at this independent Catholic school replicated the Holy Doors at St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome, which are opened only during a jubilee year.

Candy Hamilton, a teacher’s aide at the school, suggested the idea to Wadsworth. Hamilton said she and her husband Keith had actually walked through the Holy Doors in 2001 at St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome during the Great Jubilee and then watched the closing of those doors until the next jubilee year.

Hamilton said she had wished her six children – all students at Everest – could experience the love and mercy of God associated with those doors, which led to her suggesting the project to Wadsworth.

“She took the idea and ran with it,” Hamilton said. “She gave it life.”

Discovering God through art

The Rev. Jason Huynh, the school’s chaplain and also an artist, said art is a great way for children to study their faith. In Renaissance times, many people could not read, write or comprehend the Latin used in Mass. They learned the basics of their faith from religious art.

Huynh said Wadsworth took the project seriously from the outset.

“She spent hours researching it,” Huynh said.

The concept of the Holy Doors, Huynh said, comes from the Jewish tradition. The people would proclaim a Year of Jubilee when God showed mercy through the freeing of slaves and prisoners, and the erasing of debt.

In Catholic culture, people would seek God’s mercy through pilgrimages to the Holy Doors in Rome. Huynh said he was “on board” with the Holy Doors art project from the beginning.

“The idea was to have the kids realize the richness of their Catholic faith,” Huynh said.

Wadsworth wanted all her students involved, so she considered age-appropriate ways they could contribute. She began by printing off images of each of the Holy Doors’ 16 panels – which depict salvation history, Wadsworth said – and then giving them to the sixth-, seventh- and eighth-grade students to sketch.

“They couldn’t trace them, they had to come up with their own [designs],” Wadsworth said.

The kindergarten and first-grade students painted the borders around the panels to resemble pewter and nails, Wadsworth said. The second- through fifth-grade students fashioned the “stained glass:” colored tissue paper glued to clear cellophane, she added. The addition of black craft tape gave the illusion of lead.

As the students worked, Wadsworth said she discussed with them how the various images in the life of Christ depicted God’s mercy. Wadsworth said the entire project required a week and a half to complete.

“We used up every minute of class time and I teach 13 classes,” Wadsworth said.

The goal was to complete the Holy Doors by Ash Wednesday, Wadsworth said. It took about six hours for Wadsworth to install them in the narthex – with the assistance of her mother, Mary Wadsworth, of Palos Hills, she added.

Once the Holy Doors were in place, Wadsworth said she stepped back and viewed the project in its entirety.

“I was awestruck,” she said.

The little pilgrimage

On the Tuesday following Ash Wednesday, Wadsworth said Huynh led the school in prayer and every student walked through the doors. Wadsworth said students, their parents and school staff have offered positive comments on the project.

At the back of the students’ Holy Doors, Huynh added a list of churches in the Chicago area that have their own set of doors, in case families wanted to visit one or more of them. But the opportunity for meditation doesn’t end with the Everest community.

“If you drive by the road, you can see in through the first set of doors and see our Holy Doors,” Wadsworth said.

LEMONT – For Christians, anytime is a good time to contemplate God’s mercy.

But during this Lenten season, the community at Everest Academy in Lemont created a unique item for this reflection, consistent with its Catholic faith and Pope Francis’ call for a Jubilee Year of Mercy.

With the guidance of kindergarten through eighth grade art teacher April Wadsworth, the students at this independent Catholic school replicated the Holy Doors at St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome, which are opened only during a jubilee year.

Candy Hamilton, a teacher’s aide at the school, suggested the idea to Wadsworth. Hamilton said she and her husband Keith had actually walked through the Holy Doors in 2001 at St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome during the Great Jubilee and then watched the closing of those doors until the next jubilee year.

Hamilton said she had wished her six children – all students at Everest – could experience the love and mercy of God associated with those doors, which led to her suggesting the project to Wadsworth.

“She took the idea and ran with it,” Hamilton said. “She gave it life.”

Discovering God through art

The Rev. Jason Huynh, the school’s chaplain and also an artist, said art is a great way for children to study their faith. In Renaissance times, many people could not read, write or comprehend the Latin used in Mass. They learned the basics of their faith from religious art.

Huynh said Wadsworth took the project seriously from the outset.

“She spent hours researching it,” Huynh said.

The concept of the Holy Doors, Huynh said, comes from the Jewish tradition. The people would proclaim a Year of Jubilee when God showed mercy through the freeing of slaves and prisoners, and the erasing of debt.

In Catholic culture, people would seek God’s mercy through pilgrimages to the Holy Doors in Rome. Huynh said he was “on board” with the Holy Doors art project from the beginning.

“The idea was to have the kids realize the richness of their Catholic faith,” Huynh said.

Wadsworth wanted all her students involved, so she considered age-appropriate ways they could contribute. She began by printing off images of each of the Holy Doors’ 16 panels – which depict salvation history, Wadsworth said – and then giving them to the sixth-, seventh- and eighth-grade students to sketch.

“They couldn’t trace them, they had to come up with their own [designs],” Wadsworth said.

The kindergarten and first-grade students painted the borders around the panels to resemble pewter and nails, Wadsworth said. The second- through fifth-grade students fashioned the “stained glass:” colored tissue paper glued to clear cellophane, she added. The addition of black craft tape gave the illusion of lead.

As the students worked, Wadsworth said she discussed with them how the various images in the life of Christ depicted God’s mercy. Wadsworth said the entire project required a week and a half to complete.

“We used up every minute of class time and I teach 13 classes,” Wadsworth said.

The goal was to complete the Holy Doors by Ash Wednesday, Wadsworth said. It took about six hours for Wadsworth to install them in the narthex – with the assistance of her mother, Mary Wadsworth, of Palos Hills, she added.

Once the Holy Doors were in place, Wadsworth said she stepped back and viewed the project in its entirety.

“I was awestruck,” she said.

The little pilgrimage

On the Tuesday following Ash Wednesday, Wadsworth said Huynh led the school in prayer and every student walked through the doors. Wadsworth said students, their parents and school staff have offered positive comments on the project.

At the back of the students’ Holy Doors, Huynh added a list of churches in the Chicago area that have their own set of doors, in case families wanted to visit one or more of them. But the opportunity for meditation doesn’t end with the Everest community.

“If you drive by the road, you can see in through the first set of doors and see our Holy Doors,” Wadsworth said.

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