In our parish mission statement, developed shortly after the arrival of the Oblates, it states “we believe that a warm welcoming attitude is a first step to building fellowship and meaningful relationships within our community. We acknowledge the variety of cultures and backgrounds in our community and strive to treat every person with respect and care, as brothers and sister in Christ.” Taking down the fence surrounding St. Patrick was a clear sign of a welcoming spirit of hospitality. That was just the beginning. A vision of a “church without walls” was starting to form.
Through the generosity of an anonymous donor, St. Patrick Parish was given a bronze statue of “Homeless Jesus”, a creation of Timothy Schmalz, a sculptor who lives in Kitchener, Ontario. His commissions can be found around the world, but most famously in the City of Rome where several works reflecting his deeply held faith in Christ, are installed. Timothy describes his sculptures as visual translations of the Gospels.
“It brings me happiness when my sculptures are installed outside; three dimensional bronze works of art are excellent advertisements for any Christian church. The best compliment these sculptures receive is to amaze and fascinating the most cynical youth of today. If they think that the art is amazing, they will have to think that the message is as well; a ‘cool’ sculpture outside a church may make them think, likewise, something ‘cool’ is to be found inside the church. My purpose is to give Christianity as much visual dignity as possible.” In speaking with The Toronto Star in April, 2013, Schmalz said he formed his ideas for the Homeless Jesus sculpture, from living in Toronto, where he trained at the former Ontario College of Art. Says Schmalz, “I was totally used to stepping over people. You’re not aware they are human beings. They become obstacles in the urban environment and you lose a spiritual connection to them. They become inert, an inconvenience.”
This work of art was blessed and dedicated October 7, 2015 by Bishop Douglas Crosby, OMI. Hamilton joined Rome, King’s College, London, England, The Catholic Charities of both Chicago and Washington, D.C., along with many other cities who made a home for this important witness to Christ’s solidarity with the least of our society.
The statue of Homeless Jesus outside our church, which is appropriately located at one of the busiest intersections of the city, gives us an opportunity to pause in the busyness of our life and appreciate the closeness of God in our reality. Many people can be found sitting beside Jesus on the bronze bench or on the prayer walls that are in front of both Homeless Jesus and the statue of St. Patrick, which was done by Schmalz as well. It is our hope that when people finish their visit to Homeless Jesus, they will be more appreciative of how fortunate they are, and with that realization, make an honest effort to be kinder to all.