Agony and beauty: Love shines through handmade processional cross

Father Kevin Anstey, pastor of St. Anthony Parish in Knoxville, celebrates Mass. Next to him is a new processional cross that Deacon Tom Hardie and parishioner Denise Crall created with wood and stained glass in memory of longtime parishioner Bill Vaske. His widow, Bonnie, provided guidance.

By Lindsay Steele
The Catholic Messenger

Bill Vaske’s love for the Catholic faith can be found in the woodcraft items he created for his longtime parish, St. Anthony in Knoxville. Among them are a credence table, ambry cabinet, hymnal board and a desk for the pastor’s office. “He made several different items for the church throughout the years,” recalled his wife, Bonnie.

When Bill passed away last year, his family wanted to honor him with one last project — a processional cross. Wood and stained glass processional crosses Bill and Bonnie saw in their travels provided the inspiration. Bonnie teamed up with Father Kevin Anstey and a small group of creative parishioners to bring her vision to life.

Denise Crall, owner of Weller Glass Art, created the stained glass for the processional cross. She had never seen one with stained glass, but was up for the challenge. “I was humbled to be chosen. They could have gone to a bigger outfit and had it done probably quicker (but) of course I’d do something for a church I dearly love and that is home now.” She credits several diocesan priests, including Father Kevin, for helping her overcome addictions and childhood trauma.


The core design group, which included Deacon Tom Hardie and parish secretary Amanda Welsh, helped Denise choose the colors. The cross is outlined with colors significant to the Catholic faith. Rectangles of green, red, purple and rose represent liturgical colors and blue rectangles represent Mary. The center of the cross contains marbled blue and green glass to represent the couple’s favorite colors. Father Kevin chose a crucifix and Denise etched the glass at the contact points so the pieces would adhere firmly. The glass portion of the processional cross took about two months to complete. At times Denise doubted her abilities, but Father Kevin was always there to say, “Yes you can,” Denise recalled.

Although the cross honors Bill, it has significance for Denise, who is in her early 40s and battling stage-four cancer. “I know it’s something that’s going to outlast me,” she said of the processional cross. “It hit me right in the heart and I was very happy they asked me to make that (cross).”

Deacon Tom created the wood frame for the processional cross. He shares Bill’s passion for woodworking and has a background in carpentry. Like Bill, his work can be seen throughout the church. “I have been gifted with something as a craftsman and what better way to use those God-given gifts and talents than to help with a project like this,” Deacon Tom said. “It was pastoral in nature, providing someone who was grieving with a memorial of their loved one.”

He thought the processional cross would add “an element of beauty to the liturgy,” while helping parishioners to contribute their God-given talents. Being a deacon is all about “helping others to use their talents and treasures.”

The group hoped to complete the processional cross by the one-year anniversary of Bill’s death, April 26. They accomplished the goal with one week to spare. “We’re all proud of it,” Bonnie said of the processional cross. “They did a very good job.”

Denise now lives in Michigan but visits Knoxville often. She saw the finished cross for the first time at the end of May. “I got all misty-eyed at how beautiful it was,” she said. “When I handed it over, it was just glass. To see it completely finished was overwhelming and emotional.”

When people view the processional cross, “I hope they will see the agony and the beauty of Christ’s crucifixion all in one setting,” Denise said.

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