Teacher’s carving completes chapel interior at Xavier Prep

Nathan Ward works on a carving of Jesus that took three years to complete. (Submitted photo)

A new carved corpus of Christ hangs from the cross in the Chapel of Our Lady on the Xavier College Preparatory campus, 4710 N. Fifth St., Phoenix.

Joining the other carved pieces, the work completes the interior of the chapel, according to a release. It was completed in June and installed before students returned to campus in August.

Carved from soft maple, the work by Xavier teacher Nathan Ward took three years to carve.

“There are so many anecdotes from my time working on this piece,” Ward stated in the release. “I wasn’t sure how I would accomplish it. I eventually asked Jesus to guide my hands, and they became his power tools for the carving.”

Never having carved a sculpture with mallet and chisel, Ward worried about using hand tools while mastering the technique on the carving.

“The only time I got cut, I was carving the crown of thorns,” he stated.

His greatest challenge was carving the drooping head with all the technical aspects involved in that portion, the artist stated, and the most rewarding aspect was the moment he figured out how to carve the loin cloth.

“There was a palpable ‘Aha’ moment when I could visualize the folds of the cloth in the wood and understood how to make it a realistic representation of the soft, pliable material of cloth in the hard, stable material of wood.”

Ward said he recalled traveling to Lourdes on the Xavier pilgrimage a few years ago.

“While there, I was struck by the life-size crucifixes and got a lump in my throat when I saw them. I got the same lump in my throat when I saw the corpus installed in the Xavier chapel.”

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