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Ohio artist restores religious statues, stirs memories of closed parishes


  • Artist Lou McClung paints a statue of Mary in his studio at the Museum of Divine Statues in Lakewood, Ohio, July 18. He has restored dozens of statues, many from closed churches in the Diocese of Cleveland that are now displayed in the museum he operates. (CNS photo/courtesy Lou McClung, Museum of Divine Statues)
  • A large marble crucifix overlooks the sanctuary of a former Catholic church that now is home to the Museum of Divine Statues in Lakewood, Ohio. The museum is run by artist Lou McClung, who opened it to preserve artifacts from closed parishes. (CNS photo/Dennis Sadowski)
  • A close-up of a statue of St. Elizabeth of Hungary shows the bread she took to poor people and the roses that spilled from her cloak as a symbol of God's protection. The statue has been restored by Lou McClung, an artist who runs the Museum of Divine Statues in Lakewood, Ohio. (CNS photo/Dennis Sadowski)
  • A statue of Christ stands next to a painting of the Last Supper in the Museum of Divine Statues in Lakewood, Ohio. The museum is run by artist Lou McClung, who opened it to preserve artifacts of closed parishes. (CNS photo/Dennis Sadowski)
  • Eddie Schwertner discusses the work that has gone into preserving hundreds of artifacts at the Museum of Divine Statues in Lakewood, Ohio. He is the stepfather of Lou McClung, an artist who has restored dozens of statues and has overseen the museum's development. (CNS photo/Dennis Sadowski)
  • A statue of St. Sebastian is seen in the Museum of Divine Statues in Lakewood, Ohio. Artist Lou McClung, who runs the museum, has restored the statues to preserve their memory in the Diocese of Cleveland. (CNS photo/Dennis Sadowski)

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LAKEWOOD, Ohio (CNS) -- St. Elizabeth of Hungary stands tall, the bread in her right hand, a gift to the poor, looks like it may have just come from the oven. The roses at her waist, visible from an opening in her cloak, are a symbol of God's protection.

The saint as depicted by a 19th-century sculptor has plenty of other companions. There is St. Christopher carrying the child Jesus, St. Stanislaus, the martyred bishop of Poland, and St. Sebastian with arrows piercing his body, seemingly just recently.

The statues are among dozens that have been carefully restored by Lou McClung, a professional artist, who has made it his vocation -- and avocation -- to preserve artifacts from closed churches in Northeast Ohio and elsewhere. He displays them in what is now a 7-year-old venture called the Museum of Divine Statues.

The museum is housed in the former St. Hedwig Church, which served Poles in this west side, inner-ring suburb of Cleveland. McClung opened the museum six years ago with a small number of statues and artifacts. It has burgeoned to a thoughtfully designed exhibition space with more than 200 artifacts that include reliquaries, crucifixes, a monstrance from Germany and stained-glass windows.

McClung told Catholic News Service he is driven by the desire to keep some of the artifacts from closed parishes from being forgotten or sold to far-off churches. Along the way he hopes visitors can enjoy and learn from them.

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