St. Clare of Assisi remains the central figure. Some know her as Santa Clara. Dressed in robes, the statue’s garments sway whenever a fan finds itself on the high altar. Clare’s garments are a common feature of the Spanish Mission era, the product of pious women demonstrating their devotion to the saints. Clare is flanked by Mary to her left and Joseph to her right. St. Joseph became the patron saint of the Americas under the Spanish empire and remained under the Italian Jesuits who founded the University.
Over the decades since its rebuild, this trio watched over gatherings of once and future Broncos. The Mission is a place where families rejoice, students sing, lives are remembered and joined, and some come to find faith. It was at one such event that Engh first encountered the Mission—the wedding of a family friend in the early 1970s.
“It is the spiritual heart of the University, and there’s a tremendous amount of devotion to this place,” Engh says. “As the President, you want to make sure to preserve that. We didn’t turn this into a new gymnasium because we need more space to play basketball. We’re building a new basketball court instead. And we preserved this because it speaks to a different part of what people’s hearts look for, yearn for.”
Charged with that preservation are Andre and Barbara Bossak. The Bossaks were returning after a week off from work to continue chipping away at cleaning the Mission. Where they’ve already worked, a patch of olive-green paint suddenly turned mint across the chapel ceiling. The square patch looks as if sunlight is always illuminating it. Finishing the ceiling is labor-intensive work. The Bossaks earn their weekends. Their necks are craned for six hours a day.
The pair started with the choir loft—the first hurdle before tackling the rest of the church. It was a test of their work before moving on to other more visible portions of the Mission.
The couple is Polish. Andre studied to become a preservationist for more than a decade—including at the Academy of Fine Art, Cracow. They left for the United States 37 years ago and haven’t returned. Their weeks are spent restoring statues and mending stitched canvas. Years of those weeks have been spent, in part, working on this Mission.