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Meet the Maryland deacon building the pope’s altar

Meet the Maryland deacon building the pope’s altar August 8, 2015

From The Washington Post

David Cahoon does what Jesus did, and Jesus’ earthly father before Him.

He’s a carpenter, and like the Christian figure whose life he has sought to emulate, Cahoon embraces the task of transforming mundane pieces of wood into works of religious glory.

His latest project calls for building a semi-permanent altar for Pope Francis’s visit to the United States next month. The altar — whose design was chosen in a competition between 18 teams of Catholic University students — will be used when the pontiff celebrates a large outdoor Mass on Sept. 23 on the east portico of the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Northeast Washington. Then, the altar will be installed inside the basilica.

Cahoon, 58, also built an altar for the visit of Pope Benedict XVI to Washington in 2008. With a little less than a month to go before Pope Francis arrives, the carpenter is on a tight deadline and is reluctant to take a break of any kind.

…Cahoon, also known as Deacon Dave, has loved woodworking since he was a kid. His nickname then was Woody, a play on his middle name, Linwood.

He liked watching carpenters work on the homes going up near his in Rockville. He liked working with something that was once alive and then fashioning it into treehouses, forts and other items. He said he loves wood as a material, loves the way that every board is unique. In college, he studied philosophy, but his hobby snatched his heart.

“It may be a hobby that went nuts,” he said, laughing. “I think it has, at this stage in my life, become a prayer.”

In 1990, Cahoon aligned his day job with his religion. He established St. Joseph’s Carpentry Shop, a business that specializes in building and renovating religious structures. He is fixing the steeple at St. Mary’s Parish and Shrine of Our Lady of Fatima in Barnesville, Md., where he is assigned as a deacon. He also renovated pews at St. John’s Episcopal Church in Lafayette Square, across from the White House, for President Obama’s inauguration.

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