Pastor designs detailed LEGO replica of St. Paul Catholic Church building

Cary Ashby • May 13, 2017 at 12:00 PM

The Rev. Paul Schreiner has enjoyed building LEGO sets for many years. He said he became hooked while building a large castle when he was about 10 years old.

So it was only natural that the associate pastor would create a detailed LEGO version of St. Paul Catholic Church in Norwalk. The project was done for the 125th anniversary of the church building, which will be celebrated in July.

The LEGO Architecture Club at Norwalk Catholic School spent about three months of 90-minute sessions making what Schreiner designed on his computer a reality. The pastor used a LEGO digital designer software program to create and design the church based on photographs of the building.

“It’s a 1/85th-scale model,” he said. “It made me appreciate the architecture and history of the church. Beauty is easy to overlook.”

Collin Pertner, a member of the LEGO club, said he and the students often depended on the software program to “hide the bricks” and reveal how to build a certain part of the church since they didn’t have an instruction manual.

“We used that quite a bit,” added the seventh-grader and son of Joe and Betsy.

“It was really challenging. I’m not just flipping through an instruction manual to see what pieces I need.”

The club includes 15 to 20 students from the fourth through seventh grades. They worked in maximum groups of four to build the church.

Pertner has been building LEGO sets since he was 4 or 5 years old. He said what he enjoys most is building something specific, but later tearing it apart to construct something different. 

Before helping build the church, the hardest thing Pertner had done was an “ultimate collector’s series Slave I,” a replica of the spaceship flown by bounty hunter Boba Fett in the “Star Wars” films. It had 1,996 pieces.

“It took me two weeks,” said the 13-year-old boy, an admitted “huge Star Wars nerd.”

As Schreiner designed the LEGO church on the computer, he received assistance from 2013 St. Paul High School graduate Hannah Arnold, who recently earned an engineering degree from Robert Morris University in Pittsburgh.

The St. Paul pastor went through three or four versions of the bell tower before he was happy with it. The steeple is removable, which when removed, reveals a suspended gold bell. The overall design also includes braces to steady the roof and walls.

Standing in front of the finished product are LEGO versions of Schreiner (holding Communion bread), Msgr. Ken Morman (holding a cup of holy water), nurses, firefighters, police officers and construction workers. Schreiner the LEGO “people” represent parishioners and community members.

Schreiner said the most challenging part was gathering the right color bricks since “not all LEGO pieces are produced.” So he used a combination of the LEGO and Brick Links websites to buy the pieces he needed over the course of about 30 online orders. Brick Links is a site where fans sell new and used parts.

“I’m confident it’s over 5,500 pieces,” the priest said. “We found just enough to do it.”

Schreiner said the most difficult colored pieces to find were the ones known as sand green to represent “the oxidized, copper look” of the trim on the building.

Fourth-grader Bella Lawson enjoyed building the church with the rest of the club members.

“The most challenging part was making the stained glass pattern in the windows,” said the daughter of Erik and Rebecca.

Seth Ridge, the son of Craig and Jenny, said the biggest challenges were being patient and “getting everything right.”

“We sometimes figured out things on our own and then we had to get the OK (from Schreiner),” he added. “Actually, the steeple is my favorite feature. It just makes it a church.”

The finished piece sits on a specially-made table by a St. Paul parishioner, who prefers to remain anonymous. The plan is to put the LEGO building on display inside the church.

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