Scout leads pew refinishing effort at Williamsburg parish

Calvin Seeman, left, led a group of volunteers in refinishing the pews at St. Mary Parish in Williamsburg last month.

By Lindsay Steele
The Catholic Messenger

WILLIAMSBURG — High school senior Calvin Seeman has been involved in Scouts BSA for as long as he can remember. “It’s been super fun and a great experience for me,” said Calvin, a member of St. Mary Parish.


When it came time to plan his Eagle Scout project, he chose to serve the parish by refinishing the pews. “I liked being able to do something for the church,” he said. Calvin got the idea from his mom, Terri Eilers, who serves as the parish’s secretary and bookkeeper. She said the pews’ wood finish sustained damage from antibacterial wipe downs during the COVID-19 pandemic. The precaution “was good for the people, but not the furniture.”

“The pews were in pretty bad shape,” said Father David Wilkening, who retired as pastor of St. Mary on July 1. Calvin and a group of scouts and adult leaders from Troop 225 started work in early June while Father Wilkening was attending the June Clergy Institute. The church was closed during that time, allowing the volunteers to perform work on consecutive days. “That was good in the long run — I didn’t realize how much lacquer stinks,” Terri said with a laugh.


Volunteers laid down tarp and cardboard over the carpet to avoid damaging it in the refinishing process. Calvin said the most time-consuming process was sanding down the pews to remove the old finish. “We had to go through a lot of sandpaper!” he said. After each round of sanding, the volunteers wiped down the pews so dust wouldn’t get trapped beneath the stain. The group finished with several rounds of staining and light sanding and completed work in five days.

Father Wilkening was “tickled” when he saw the refinished pews. Calvin “worked really hard, and what’s neat is that he brought a lot of scouts with him!” One of the volunteers, Marcus West, is also working toward his Eagle Scout rank.

Terri said the project helped lift parishioners’ spirits as they prepared to say goodbye to Father Wilkening. “With a new priest coming in, it helped perk up the church,” she said. Parishioners often thank Calvin after Mass for leading the refinishing project.

Calvin’s whole family is involved in scouting and his dad, Arlen Seeman, is an Eagle Scout. Calvin still has a few steps left to complete before he can earn that rank, such as writing a report on his project and asking for letters of recommendation. He has until his 18th birthday, March 23, to submit his application. “We are proud of Calvin,” Terri said. “Things were looking shabby before and now they look fantastic,” though she admits she might be biased.

Father Wilkening said he is thankful for young people who want to help the church. “Scouts have a long history of doing good work.”

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