By Kateri Schmidt Catholic News Service
ST. PAUL, Minn. (CNS) — Stephen and Jennifer Maas’ family business, Domestic Church Supply Co., carries one product: a Lego kit that brings the mystery of the Mass into the living rooms of families around the world.
“Father Leopold Celebrates Mass” began as a quirky passion project, but it has morphed into a popular and successful ministry for Stephen, 39, and Jennifer, 42, and their five home-schooled children. The oldest is 10-year-old Leopold, whom they call “Leo.”
It all began for these parishioners of Nativity of Our Lord in St. Paul during the search for Leo’s first Communion present. Among the standard rosaries, devotionals and holy cards, nothing seemed likely to excite their young son.
What they wanted was a Lego kit that Leo — an avid Lego fan — could use to act out the Mass. There was just one problem: It didn’t exist. “So,” said Stephen, “that got me thinking: How come there’s no priest in Legoland?”
That question launched a year-and-a-half-long process of “tinkering.” Stephen raided his son’s Lego bins and began fiddling with different brick combinations. Leo’s first Communion came and went as Stephen continued to test out miniature altars and ambos, going through eight or nine versions of a Lego tabernacle.
Wanting the set to be as complete as possible, Stephen found someone who could print a white collar onto a black-clothed Lego figurine and gold etching onto Lego “books” to create a lectionary and Roman Missal.
For the vestments, he began roaming through fabric stores searching for a lightweight material that would lie flat on the small figure. He finally settled on Nike athletic fabric, laser-cut for the purpose.
The whole family got involved, taking notes whenever they visited a new church. The kids and their friends acted as consultants, testing out an early version of the instruction manual.
The Maases knew that they wanted to share the product they were creating with others, so as they tinkered, they began asking a crucial question: Would it sell? They researched potential copyright issues and discovered that, according to the first-sales doctrine, once a product has been purchased, the original creators have no say in what happens to it.
They took the plunge.
Stephen ordered supplies from BrickLink, an online store where Lego enthusiasts can buy huge quantities of bricks in specific sizes, shapes and colors from collectors around the world. He and Jennifer got to work assembling the kits each night after the kids went to bed.
The product launched at the Minnesota Catholic Homeschool Conference in May 2015. Word spread on social media. Soon, Catholic bookstores across the United States and the United Kingdom, including the online store Holy Heroes, began requesting their product.