“It is more of a hobby, but kind of like a ministry,” Brother Craig said. “It is a way to help the churches. We have not spent a penny on candles at St. James the Apostle since I have been here.
“There is something spiritual about it for me,” Brother Craig said. “All of the (Paschal) candles have been blessed, so I am working with blessed materials. I also like to do it in the winter, because it heats up my kitchen.”
Brother Craig started recycling Paschal candles when he moved to Maynardville, Tenn., but the activities picked up when he came to his current assignment in Sneedville. Brother Craig moved to Sneedville to begin a Catholic presence ministry. He is active in the community and assists at the small diocesan church in his county, St. James the Apostle.
His son, Kyle Digmann, is a priest in Iowa and previously lived with a priest who recycled candles. While Brother Craig consulted that priest and has spoken with candle and wick companies, he said the process is mostly trial and error.
He begins with Easter candles or any previously burned candle. The Sisters of Mercy in Nashville gave him four boxes of half pint candles and vanilla-scented votive candles.
“I’m working with different types of wax,” Brother Craig said. “I’m just trying to work with whichvever type of wax and just try to find the best wick for that type.”
He melts down the used candles and wax in a double boiler on his stove until it is liquefied. He can melt three candles at a time in each pot, and he said it only takes about 20 minutes for the candles to melt.
He then pours his mixed wax concoction into recycled candle tubes that he collects from Father Steve. The only thing he needs to purchase are new wicks.
“You have to keep the wick centered,” Brother Craig said. “That is one of the many tricks to candlemaking.”
He pours them into a form with a raised center so that when the candles burn, they do not extinguish themselves. He tries to make eight candles at a time, pouring wax into the tube and keeping a fan on it to cool the hot wax.
“You have to do it gradually, and you need to have an assembly line,” Brother Craig said. “I have had to learn on my own, and I am still perfecting the system. It is frustrating trying to find the perfect combination, but any time you are working with recycled wax, it is going to be trial and error.”
Brother Craig continues to collect advice on how to construct his candles. He is primarily using wax only from the Paschal or Easter candle, which he says has the best wax. He would love to find out what the Cathedral Candle Company’s sanctuary candles are made of, but he said he is sure it is a trade secret.
Until then, his experiments will continue.