By Eileen Jevis, Staff writer
“Amen, I say to you, whatever you did for one of these least brothers of mine, you did for me.” (Matthew 25:40).
This Scripture passage is one that Hank Centore hopes people will recall when they pass by the newly installed statue near the front entrance of the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception. The bronze sculpture depicts a life-size Homeless Jesus, huddled under a blanket on a bench. Only his feet, showing wounds from the crucifixion, reveal his identity.
Centore, a parishioner at St. Ann’s Church, first learned of the famous sculpture after reading an article in the Saint Anthony Messenger magazine several years ago. “The article talked about Timothy Schmalz, a Canadian sculptor based in Ontario,” said Centore. “I was very moved by it. I thought, wouldn’t it be great if we could have something like that in Syracuse?”
Schmalz’s work focuses primarily on religious figures, but he is best known for his Homeless Jesus sculpture, which can be found in cities throughout the United States and around the world. In 2013, Schmalz gifted a Homeless Jesus sculpture to Pope Francis. It is on display in St. Peter’s Square in Vatican City.
Centore called Schmalz’s office to discuss the project and the price. He then formed a committee to talk about how to raise funds to have a statue commissioned for the diocese. Through the generosity of many donors who supported Hank’s vision, the funds were raised, and the work began.
Marie Cullen served on the planning committee. She has known Centore for many years through the work they do at the food pantries of their merged parishes of St. Charles–St. Ann and the Cathedral. “When Hank was forming the committee, he insisted I be a part of it because of our many decades coordinating our food pantries,” said Cullen. “Hank and the volunteers who work at the emergency services at the Cathedral know firsthand the struggles of the hungry and homeless. The homeless population is right in front of us because of the work we do,” she said. “But people hesitate to look at them, because when doing so, you think, There but for the grace of God go I.”
The purpose of the sculpture is to raise awareness of the marginalized and to challenge and inspire society to be more compassionate and charitable. “The poor, neglected and downtrodden need help,” said Centore. “I hope the statue will help us remember them and to be generous to our fellow man in any way we can. I hope it inspires people to help those in most need.”
Bishop Douglas J. Lucia blessed the sculpture after Mass on Nov. 20. During the blessing, Bishop Lucia asked everyone to pray for those who feel like outcasts. He called to mind that abandonment was the most unbearable pain Jesus felt while hanging on the cross. “This statue signifies that all are welcome,” said the Bishop. “God cares for each and every one of us, no matter who we are.”