Cross Refurbished at Wheeling University’s Chapel of Mary and Joseph
WHEELING, W.Va., Oct. 30, 2020 — When Ginny Favede took over the helm at Wheeling University in late fall of 2019, she found a university struggling financially and crumbling physically. The University, once a beautiful, quaint campus, was run down with a patchwork of potholed roads and parking lots. The campus and its buildings needed love and an extensive amount of work.
The cross at the Chapel of Mary and Joseph, the crown jewel of the University campus, had been damaged by 36 years of Ohio Valley weather. President Favede felt the cross was in desperate need of repair to represent a new Wheeling University despite its struggles. Over the summer, the cross underwent a much-need restoration.
“The cross sustained substantial damage from the sun, snow, ice and rain while shepherding the campus of Wheeling College, Wheeling Jesuit College, Wheeling Jesuit University and now Wheeling University for more than three decades,” said President Favede.
Having spent several years as the executive director of the Ohio Valley Construction Employers Council (OVCEC), Favede knew first-hand the generous nature of Ohio Valley contractors and called upon OVCEC member Charlie Savage of Savage Construction.
“Anyone who knows Charlie, knows he is the salt of the earth, with a heart of gold. I am so very grateful for his generosity and support for our beloved University,” she explained. Favede knew Savage would know how best to make the necessary improvements. He assessed how the cross was mounted inside the bell tower and drew up a plan on how to safely remove it and then re-install the cross once work was complete.
“The cross needed more than a coat of paint – there was extensive work to be done. Rotted wood was replaced and rust was removed from the metal beams – work that could not be completed without removing the cross,” President Favede explained.
Once removed from the Chapel’s bell tower, the steel and wooden cross was placed in the plaza outside the Chapel where University maintenance staff spent weeks restoring the campus landmark.
Savage Construction generously donated the equipment and labor needed, to remove the cross so the renovations could be completed on the ground. Savage Construction cut the cross from its perch inside the bell tower and with the use of a crane, lowered it skillfully and placed onto the plaza below.
Once on the ground, the structure was placed atop a makeshift bench fashioned from cement blocks where the University’s maintenance staff removed all of the rotted wood that outlined the steel cross. The metal was sanded, primed and repainted. New, treated lumber was affixed to the cross and painted. The renovation took about two weeks, President Favede explained.
“Many people didn’t realize the cross was outlined in two layers of wood that provided a three-dimensional look. One piece of wood had fallen off in a storm some time ago and the remaining wood was severely weathered,” the president said. “As the cross laid on the plaza between the Chapel and Swint Hall, passersby could see the size and scope of the work. At 40 feet and weighing 1,600 pounds, the magnitude of this job was anything but ordinary.”
Once restoration of the cross was finished, Savage Construction’s crew and crane returned to campus to hoist the cross back inside the bell tower where the workers reattached the cross.
Prior to the re-installation, members of the Wheeling University community gathered near the Chapel as Rev. James Conroy, S.J., rector of the Jesuit Community, blessed the cross and shared how the cross is a symbol of rebirth.
Fr. Conroy noted in 50 years when the cross is blessed again, “let us remember this moment when this University has risen again to its truthful place of intellect and spirituality for the Catholics and the Christians of West Virginia.” He asked God to bless the cross and all members of the Wheeling University community “to make the University a continued place where truth is honored and where integrity becomes the most important characteristic of the soul of faithful young men and young women.”
“Employees from across campus gathered in awe as workers re-mounted this symbol of our faith. The structure was again lifted by a skillful crane operator, weighing an additional 200 pounds due to the new treated lumber, and welded into place. What a wonderful sight it was to see this once faded and damaged cross restored and placed back in the bell tower to shepherd over our University,” Favede stated.
She added, “The cross is sacred to us. It represents our pride in and our commitment to our religious heritage and is a unifying message for our campus community. The restoration reaffirms our commitment ‘to being men and women for others,’ and signifies the identity of Wheeling University as a Jesuit and Catholic institution.”
Since the restoration, the University maintenance crew has re-lit the bell tower so that the cross once again shines brightly in the darkness. Today, the cross can be seen day and night from anywhere on the campus, Favede added.