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Gift evokes gratitude for creation, creativity

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As if it isn’t enough that maintenance technician Adam Reynolds skillfully keeps things running at Saint Catherine by the Sea Convent in Ventura, California, he also lends his gift of artistry to enhance the beauty and spiritual presence of the place.  

At the Siena Prayer Center, a retreat facility on the convent grounds, Adam recently created a sculpture of praying hands suspended above a large stone. The idea for the piece bloomed from a simple request by Sister Gloria Valdovinos, CSC, coordinator of the center, to “make the meditation garden look nice.” The image of praying hands above a rock manifested in Adam’s mind, and he was able to come up with “a good device to hold the hands up and make it look natural.” 

This sculpture of praying hands suspended over a stone is a new feature in the meditation garden at the Siena Prayer Center at Saint Catherine by the Sea Convent in Ventura, California.
Sisters of the Holy Cross, Inc., employee Adam Reynolds, inset, a maintenance technician at Saint Catherine’s, thought up and crafted the sculpture, which acknowledges the spiritual essence of the natural world.

To create the piece, he first made a mold of his own hands using alginate, a material used for dental impressions. He then cast a first set of hands out of plaster of Paris to test the mold. Happy with the outcome, he cast a new set out of a concrete compound that would hold up to the elements. Next, with his artist’s touch, he applied several treatments of gold leaf and paint, and tinted and buffed wax to give the hands a bronze patina. After cementing a large stone into the ground, he epoxied a steel rod from the hands to the stone. 

A passage from William Shakespeare’s play As You Like It spoke to Adam throughout his creative process. The quote is delivered by exiled Duke Senior, who has been extricated from his high position by his brother and banished from the kingdom.  

“And this our life, exempt from public haunt, 

Finds tongues in trees, books in the running brooks, 

Sermons in stones, and good in everything.” 

“The words reinforce the idea of prayer being a thank you for all of creation,” says Adam, noting the sculpture’s appropriate placement in a natural setting. 

“I’ve always liked drawing and creating things,” adds Adam, who studied the arts at the College of Santa Fe, New Mexico. In his free time, he also enjoys forging and welding iron sculptures, and last year he stained and stenciled a stone-looking path to create a labyrinth at the convent.  

Visitors to the center are taken by the powerful imagery of the praying hands, says Sister Gloria, who is grateful for the beautiful gift. Each day she makes a point of passing by the sculpture, where she is called to pause and give time to prayer.