McCandless resident finds kneelers enjoyable, satisfying task
by: Chuck Moody
Don Gaus says he was a "Sunday Catholic" until he became familiar with Medjugorje, Bosnia-Herzegovina, where several young people have been reporting alleged messages from the Blessed Mother since 1981.
"It was back in Ď88 that I first heard of Medjugorje through a video they showed at our church, St. Alexis in Wexford," Gaus recalled.
"After looking at the video, I sort of got interested in Medjugorje and just what was going on over there. Before that, I was really one of these ĎSunday Catholics.í"
Gaus, 62, and his wife, Carolyn, who live in McCandless Township, visited Medjugorje later that year.
"Right before I went, I read a book on Medjugorje, and I actually started to pray the rosary then," he said. "I hadnít done that for probably 30 years, or 40 years or more. I started to go to daily Mass a little bit.
"I went to Medjugorje. We thought it was really great. It really changed a lot then for me."
Gaus said the visit also changed his wife "a little bit."
"But she was probably a lot deeper religious than I was anyway," he said. "She was probably happy that I went. It fit more into her goals."
The couple visited Medjugorje again in 1990, this time with their three children and one of their spouses.
"I heard Father Jozo (Zovko) there speaking," Gaus said. "His talk was about having your home Ďaltaredí to pray at, a place in your home to have quiet prayer and a little altar. I came home and thought, ĎThat sounds like a good idea. I think Iíll do that.í"
Gaus started looking around for a kneeler, but he couldnít find any that were inexpensive.
"I finally found a couple at a convent down South Side (Pittsburgh) that was closing," he said. "I bought those."
At the time, Gaus was working as a systems engineer at IBM. A couple of years later, IBM had a "downsizing," and Gaus accepted an early retirement.
He then started making personal kneelers for church and home.
"I like woodworking," Gaus said. "I was in the service for five years, and I learned a little woodworking there. I thought, ĎIíll make a couple and start trying to see if some people would buy them at a less expensive price so people could afford them."
Gaus started measuring kneelers at different churches. "I made up my own little design and started to make them," he said. "I started making them to sell and advertising a few places. I was doing OK. (But) I was selling not too many of them."
A few years later, Gaus became acquainted with a man who designed a Web site for him (www.kneeler.com).
"Since then, I had to quit advertising completely, and everythingís through the Web site," said Gaus, who also has a kneeler on display at the Diocesan Purchasing Commission.
"They sell a few of them for me down there. Business has been pretty strong for me. Iím a one-person guy right here in my garage working on them. I just keep busy."
In addition to kneelers, Gaus also makes prayer cushions with the help of his wife.
Gaus considers his connection with Medjugorje a "conversion."
"I went from a lukewarm Catholic to a fairly strong Catholic," he said. "When we go on vacation, we seek out churches. We rarely miss a daily Mass, even when weíre out traveling. We always find a church somewhere to go to. Itís really something I have to do now ó go to church every day." In addition to making kneelers and prayer cushions, Gaus and his wife volunteer during the taping of Bishop Donald Wuerlís television program, "The Teaching of Christ."
"I usually run the tapes," he said. "Sometimes Iím the floor manager, sometimes the timekeeper. Carolyn usually does timekeeping and production assistant.
"We also volunteer at Gospa Missions in Evans City. I do a lot of their computer work out there. I do different publishing type stuff and computer things."
The personal kneelers Gaus makes are 33 inches high and 22 1/2 inches wide. They are solid oak, handcrafted, come with a choice of stain and fabric color, and have a fold-up kneeler. The list price is $210 plus $25 shipping and handling.
"I would say Iíve made about 1,000 of them so far," said Gaus, who makes about 150 personal kneelers a year. It takes a couple of weeks, but Iím doing several at a time. I work on four or five at a time, or more sometimes.
"Whatís amazing is that probably you would think that mostly Catholics buy these. But thereís a lot of non-Catholics that buy. A lot of ministers from various Protestant denominations, different churches. A lot of ministers buy them for their own personal use and also for their churches. Iíd say 10 to 15 percent are probably non-Catholic who buy them."
For St. Alexis, Gaus has made kneelers, a credence table, plant stands and a holder for the Easter candle.
Gaus considers his work a "ministry."
"I donít consider it a job," he said. "Iím not trying to make any money at doing it other than to supplement my Social Security, which Iím on now. Itís really more of a ministry. I give a discount for any kind of a priest or a clergy person or for churches.
"Itís really enjoyable work. I have a bunch of them that Iím working on right now. In fact, 10 for a church out near Scranton."
Originally published in the August 29th, 2004 issue of the "Pittsburgh Catholic" Reprinted with permission
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