Jesus and the Children Sculpture Welcomes Community, Affirms Children’s Dignity

Written by Paul R. Kopenkoskey on . Posted in Local

Jesus and the Children Sculpture No. 1Sophia Putz and Jack Walker served as the statue’s models. Jesus said, "Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these." (Matthew 19:14).

Monsignor R. Louis Stasker said his two-prong goals for the recently dedicated bronze statue, Jesus and the Children, at the Basilica of Saint Adalbert plaza is to affirm God's love for the world's most vulnerable — children.

The 1,500-pound sculpture is also way of saying to the community at large all are welcome.

"So often children in society today are being mistreated," said Stasker, pastor of Saint Adalbert on Grand Rapids' West Side. "The statue is a way of affirming their dignity and value. We have a plaza here and we thought it would be a good spot for a sculpture and we came up with Jesus and the Children because that's very welcoming to our community, not just parishioners."

Seated, the bronze depiction of Jesus comes in at seven feet tall. The child on his lap is about four and a half feet tall and the boy in the back stands five feet tall. The monument took seven months to sculpt and three months to cast in bronze.

Sophia Putz and Jack Walker were the models for the sculpture and also are parishioners at Saint Adalbert.

Honors Christ

Grand Rapids Diocese Bishop David Walkowiak, said before blessing the statue "this image honors the truth that Christ is the visible image of the invisible God, the eternal Son of God who came down to the womb of the Virgin Mary and is a sign and sacrament of God the Father. As Christ Himself said, 'He who sees Me, sees the Father.' Therefore when we honor this image let us lift up our eyes to Christ who reigns forever with the Father and the Holy Spirit."

A friendly Jesus

Grand Rapids sculptor Mic Carlson said the idea for Jesus and the Children germinated following the unveiling about five years ago of another sculpture he created titled Madonna of the Streets, commissioned by John and Sandy Lowry and located at the Garden of Life on Bridge Street that's near the HELP Pregnancy Crisis Aid.

Stasker approached Carlson about creating a barrier-free monument for Saint Adalbert. A committee was formed to raise the $150,000 needed to support the project.

Carlson said he wanted to ensure the Jesus for the statue was friendly, approachable.

"I tried to give Him a twinkle in his eye if that's possible in bronze," he said. "Just that little bit of a smile. I wanted a nice looking Jesus, with a little girl sitting on His lap gazing at Him with a smile on His face and shepherd boy behind Him."

Jesus and the Children Sculpture No. 2Around 13 stain glass windows adorn the interior of the Basilica of Saint Adalbert. Jesus and the Children is Carlson's fifth bronze monument in the city of Grand Rapids. Other projects include the aforementioned Madonna of the Streets, Jesus at the Pillar at Holy Redeemer Church in Jenison, a 13-foot bronze cross for Cascade Christian Church and a memorial for fallen Grand Rapids Police Officer Robert Kozminski at Richmond Park.

Carlson is also the sculptor for the Saint Francis of Assisi Sculpture Garden that sets on 11-acres at the Dominican Center at Marywood, 2025 E. Fulton St. Details about the Garden can be read here

Rich legacy

Christian art enjoys a rich legacy at Saint Adalbert from the time it was built. The church's cornerstone was laid in August 1907 and the building was completed in 1913 by primarily Polish worshippers. From the start, the church was constructed with around 13 stained glass windows that depict scenes including the crucifixion and resurrection.

Why is it called "basilica"?

Basilica comes from the Greek meaning "royal" or "regal" or "house fit for a king." A basilica church is usually of Romanesque style, with the altar set before a rounded wall called the Apse. Over the altar is a raised Baldachino, or canopy, resting on four pillars. In order to obtain the honorific title of "Minor Basilica," the parish church must have played a significant role in the furthering the Faith of a particular area, according to the church's website.

St. Adalbert Basilica was the first church to be solemnly dedicated to this rank in the State of Michigan, and one of the very few in the United States. St. Adalbert was raised to this honor on the occasion of the centennial of the parish in grand ceremonies on February 16, 1980.

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Author Information
Paul R. Kopenkoskey
About:
Paul R. Kopenkoskey is a full-time freelance writer and editor for an assortment of publications including Grand Rapids Magazine, Grand Rapids Business Journal, and Faith Grand Rapids magazine. He has completed his first novel with the working title, Karl Beguiled. He and his wife, Barb, live in Wyoming, Michigan. They have three children and five grandchildren.

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