The focal point of a newly built prayer patio at St. Matthias Parish in Parma is a sculpture of Jesus the Beggar, which is the work of Canadian sculptor Timothy Schmalz.
Father Ray Sutter, St. Matthias pastor, said he first encountered the statue during a visit to the headquarters of Food for the Poor in Florida. The nonprofit is one of the largest international relief and development organizations in the country. It assists people in 17 countries around the world with housing, food, safe drinking water and other programs to improve their quality of life.
“I saw the statue at the entrance and was moved by it,” Father Sutter said. He was able to contact the sculptor and arrange to purchase a copy for his parish.
He said the sculpture is a life-size seated Jesus with his legs crossed. He is covered with a cloak and on his outstretched hand, the nail holes from his crucifixion are visible. The statue is one in a series that Schmalz created after being inspired by Matthew 25: 36-37: “For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, a stranger and you welcomed me, naked and you clothed me, ill and you cared for me, in prison and you visited me.”
Bishop Nelson Perez visited the parish on April 8 to celebrate Mass, bless and dedicate the statue.
Father Sutter said the bishop spoke about the Easter season and connected the concept of helping the poor with the risen Christ. After Mass, the entire congregation processed with the bishop to the gathering area for the statue’s blessing and dedication.
The statue will be moved outside to its place in the prayer patio soon, when weather permits, Father Sutter said. The patio is just outside the church’s main entrance and gathering area. There are benches and landscaping which makes it a good place for prayer and reflection, he added.
St. Matthias, which has about 700 families, has worked with Food for the Poor for several years, Father Sutter said. “During Lent this year, we raised about $35,000 to help build homes in Haiti,” he said. The funds will build about six houses. Father Sutter said parishioners rallied and hosted a garage sale that raised about $5,000 for the project, with the rest coming from personal donations.
Previously, St. Matthias parishioners supported other Food for the Poor initiatives, including raising funds to help build wells in Guatemala.