To celebrate its rich historical connection with migrants, and to celebrate its current outreach, St. Benedict Parish has announced plans to install "Angels Unaware," by internationally known Canadian sculptor Tim Schmalz, on the grounds of St. Benedict Parish.
The sculpture shows 140 migrants from diverse historical and cultural backgrounds on one boat or vessel. Within this collection of humanity, angel wings are visible, suggesting that the spiritual is found among these migrants.
"The Vatican's Department of Migrants and Refugees is working closely with Pope Francis to improve the way our society relates with migrants and refugees," Schmalz said. "In order to make a positive change in terms of how refugees are treated internationally, there must first be a positive change in people's attitudes. It is critical to remind people that many countries were formed because of migrants and, more importantly, that welcoming 'the stranger' is part of being Christian. It is our spiritual duty to welcome the migrant and refugee."
Father Robert Mock, pastor of St. Benedict Parish, said, "The sculpture will be a symbol of the parish's long connection to migrants, which continues to this day. St. Benedict's founding pastor, Monsignor William Tobin, was an immigrant from Ireland, and the parish recently assisted the resettlement of two refugee families, in collaboration with St. Peter's Episcopal Church in Amherst and Journey's End."
The first worldwide installation of this art is scheduled for Saint Paul Outside the Walls in Rome in 2019; the second will be at St. Benedict's.
"More unveilings of the identical work will follow in major cities around the world," Schmalz noted. "This would make what is a universal symbol truly universal. It is our hope that many cities will share in our mission and join in this beautiful campaign to create a symbol that clearly calls upon our world to treat all humans more humanely. It is our spiritual duty to do so."
The parish has launched a fund-raising appeal to pay for the sculpture. Donations can made through the parish website, www.saintbenedicts.com or can be sent to St. Benedict Parish, 1317 Eggert Rd., Amherst, N.Y., 14226.