Carpenters for Jesus

Nov 22, 2022
Dan and Barbara Doty work out of their garage to create gifts of art for various parishes. Seen here is the altar, kneeler and table for the tabernacle built for the rectory chapel at St. Thomas Aquinas Parish in St. Cloud. (GLENDA MEEKINS)

ORLANDO | When Dan and Barb Doty were married in June of 1986, they split their garage in half – one side for Dan and his woodworking tools, the other side for Barb and her car. Little did Barb know that garage would soon be filled with woodshop tools and projects for Orlando parishes for decades to come.

“I bought (Barb) a woodworking 101 course as a present. And then, I bought her a scroll saw. Then that had to be housed on her side of the garage,” Dan said with a chuckle. “Then more tools came.”

“Yeah, my car didn’t end up in the garage very long,” Barb laughed in reply. “So, he had to walk me to my car at 3 a.m. Our whole marriage he’s done that for me so I could be at work at the post office by 4 a.m. since I lost my car garage.”

Over the years, the Dotys have made wooden altars, kneelers, tabernacles, credence tables, candle holders, chairs, Stations of the Cross and rockers among other rectory furnishings for four parishes as well as schools of the Diocese of Orlando. They have done this all at cost of the material, which many church ministries have covered so the items are free to the parishes. Their latest project was for the rectory at St. Thomas Aquinas Parish in St. Cloud. The assignment included building a pocket in the main altar to house a relic, kneelers for confession, chapel altar and table for the tabernacle.

“For us Catholics, beauty in the furnishings of the church is important because they enhance our liturgy and worship,” said Father Derek Saldanha, parochial administrator of St. Thomas Aquinas Parish. “Unfortunately, good furnishings can be very expensive and unaffordable for many of our smaller parishes which run on tight budgets. This is where the talent and generosity of Dan and Barb make it possible… they do it out of love for the Church.”

Dan and Barbara Doty also built book holders for all of the pews in their parish, St. John Vianney in Orlando. (GLENDA MEEKINS)

In 2017, St. John Vianney Parish in Orlando was sadly vandalized. Among the damaged items were metal candle holders, which Dan repaired. “Their love and generosity are amazing,” said Father Saldanha of the incident.

As parishioners at St. John Vianney, the Dotys first offered their skillset in woodworking to their pastor at the time who was looking for book holders in the pews. From there, the Dotys’ ministry grew. Now, the Dotys estimate they’ve donated thousands of hours working these projects for the churches. In addition to St. John Vianney and St. Thomas Aquinas parishes, the Dotys’ work can be found in St. Paul Parish in Leesburg, and St. James Cathedral in Orlando. Both parishes have rectory altars made by the Dotys as well as a tabernacle made for St. Paul’s.

A piece particularly dear to the Dotys was a tabernacle they built for the St. John Vianney parish rectory chapel. Part of the tabernacle was from a piece of Barb’s father’s parish tabernacle in Ohio. The door and frame of the tabernacle have been engraved with her family’s names. Barb’s family was invited to attend the first Mass and blessing of the tabernacle, which Barb said was a very special moment for them.

“There were a lot of people involved in the creation of that chapel,” Dan said. “A family who creates stained glass art made a window, the candles were purchased by the Women’s Council, the Knights of Columbus painted the walls. It’s neat that we could all come together to support the Church in this way.”

“I think us all coming together shows other people you can do all kinds of things for the Church,” Barb replied. “Anything you can do – no matter how small – can make a difference. That action might mean a lot to someone else. If you like being outdoors, see if you can help with yardwork. Tell other parishioners and priests you are available to help with a need. Doesn’t matter how simple it can be.”

From donating their time to Boy Scout and Girl Scout wood badge projects, to showing eighth grade history classes how to use old wood turning tools and helping at the St. John Vianney Catholic School Christmas craft show, the Dotys enjoy this ministry they’ve created.

“It’s relaxing for both of us; peaceful,” Barb said. “It’s a great joy to see these pieces being used. It’s an honor to do it, really. God gave us this gift, why not use it!”

While “Dan the Handyman” does most of the heavy-lifting, Barb assists with the scroll saw and putting pieces together. The couple said the hobby has been a source of quality time and an opportunity for them to grow together.

“After everything the Church (Knights of Columbus, St. John Vianney’s Women’s Council and priests) has done for me, this is a way of giving back,” Barb said. “They have always been there for me during the hard times in life – whether it’s been when my mother or husband were ill, they were always there when I asked. It’s the least I could do.”

Dan noted, “It’s really neat to create something beautiful that others can use and enjoy forever.”

By Dana Szigeti, Special to the Florida Catholic, November 22, 2022