Ten years ago, when the Catholic Diocese of Cleveland was in the midst of a reconfiguration that included closing or merging dozens of parishes, entrepreneur Lou McClung had an idea to create an educational archive for the community where he would preserve what he called “the wonders of the Catholic faith and heritage,” including religious art and artifacts.
Today, his vision – originally called The Museum of Divine Statues – is known as The Sanctuary Museum.
After its closure, McClung purchased the former St. Hedwig parish property on Madison Avenue in the Birdtown neighborhood of Lakewood from the diocese. Over the years, he purchased, was gifted or arranged for the loan of hundreds of sacred items that have been carefully restored and are displayed in the renovated, former church.
On June 28, Bishop Edward Malesic, Father Dan Schlegel, vicar for clergy and religious, and Vincent Gardiner, diocesan chancellor, visited the museum and talked with McClung, the curator, about his work.
He showed them three altars he built to showcase some of the items. The largest altar has a glass top and serves as a display area for a variety of relics, including a certificate verifying the authenticity of a relic.
McClung uses his artistic, woodworking and other skills to restore and repaint the statues and artifacts and decide how to display them reverently.
“My dream is to have something representing every parish in the diocese,” he said. He has gathered information about the statues and displays a QR code by many of them. Visitors can scan the code and retrieve information about the item on their smartphones or tablets. Some information was also shared from the diocesan archives to add insight about a parish or featured item.
One of McClung’s favorite pieces is a large monstrance formerly used for Eucharistic Adoration at St. Procop Church in Cleveland, which closed during the 2009-2010 reconfiguration. It is a model of a monstrance from a church in Prague, capital of the Czech Republic, and contains hundreds of small rhinestones. Two other monstrances also are displayed: one that was used at Saint Mary Seminary when it was located on Ansel Road in Cleveland and the St. Wendelin monstrance that was used in the 1935 Eucharistic Congress in Cleveland. A unique chalice with painted ceramic inserts that was discovered at the original Rose-Mary Home – established in 1922 to serve disabled children – is also displayed.
The Pope Pius X miter, which was given to Bishop Edward Hoban, and the miter Bishop Joseph Schrembs wore for his Feb. 22, 1911 installation as the first bishop of Toledo, are displayed in special cases. Bishop Schrembs later served as bishop of Cleveland from June 16, 1921 until his death on Nov. 2, 1945.
Bishop Malesic, Father Schlegel and Gardiner also were interested in a display of shell art, which soldiers in the trenches crafted from discarded ammunition during World Wars I and II. In another small room was a display of dolls in miniature habits representing the dress of religious sisters who served in the diocese.
A large, stained-glass window that once graced the bishop’s residence was donated to the museum. It has been reassembled, restored and is on display.
The visitors chatted with McClung as he showed them his workroom, where another large statue is being restored, a large mosaic that still needs some restoration, painted details on the ceiling and other interesting features in the museum.
“I try to be tasteful and respectful,” McClung said of his work at the museum.
He also added a few statues in a garden area between the museum and the former school building, which houses some of McClung’s other ventures, including a photography studio and a cosmetic company.
Click here or call 216-712-7094 for more information on The Sanctuary Museum. Self-guided tours are available noon to 4 p.m. Saturdays for $10 or call to arrange a group tour conducted by McClung.