Sunday, July 17, 2016

Mary Help of Christians Comes to Champaign

Mary Help of Christians Comes to Champaign

Almost from the moment the Salesians came to Holy Cross Parish in Champaign, Ill., 3 years ago, our pastor, Fr. Dave Sajdak, has been eager to place a larger-than-life statue of Mary Help of Christians in the parish church.  This past week--on Tuesday and Wednesday--it finally happened.

It was the end of a long saga, I've been told by parishioner-artist Harry Breen.  Harry designed the renovations of the church after the 2d Vatican Council, and in last few years he's been involved in further alterations of the worship space because Bishop Daniel Jenky, CSC, of Peoria mandated that the tabernacles in all church should be placed in the center of the sanctuary, as in the "old days."

So within the last 3 years, that was done at Holy Cross, leaving the beautiful chapel that Harry had designed for worship of the reserved Blessed Sacrament vacant.
The Blessed Sacrament chapel, just to the right of the sanctuary,
following the removal of the large marble, now-disused tabernacle
early in July to prepare for the arrival of the new Marian statue.

The statue that arrived at Holy Cross last Tuesday (July 12) actually was the 3d one designed for us by the Chinese sculptor commissioned for the work.  (I don't know the name of sculptor or company.)  Harry rejected the 1st one because it was done in inferior marble and the 2d one because both Madonna and Child had oriental features.  (I don't know how Harry made his determinations, but I don't think they were actually shipped here.)

Another stage of the preparation for this Mary's coming was the removal of the life-sized statue of her that was already in the church. It was taken from a little shrine on the left side of the nave
and moved temporarily to the parish center, where it has a nice setting for the time being.

The plan is for Harry to design an appropriate shrine for the statue in the little cloister garden between the church and the parish center.
So those were the early stages of this Marian saga.  With the statue's arrival around 9:30 a.m. on Tuesday, another stage began.  I witnessed some of its phases during the 2 days it took to unload and erect our new statue, which is 7' tall and weighs about 1,500 lbs.  I missed other parts while doing necessary work or going out for medical appointments.

1st, it took quite some time to position the truck delivering the statue from Georgia, where parts of it had been gilded after shipment from China. For several hours it completely blocked Clark St. at the front door of the church.
Then the 2 deliverymen spent more than 3 hours uncrating the statue, which sat perpendicular to the side walls of the truck, and turning her to go out feet first.

By the end of the day, they had managed to get her thru the church doors, up the center aisle, and to the altar rail in front of her destination.
Then they started to set up scaffolding and a pulley system with which to hoist the statue up to its pedestal and then stand it up. The statue's lying overnite in the prone position led to quips about celebrating our Lady's Dormition.

The workers got the statue upon the pedestal shortly after morning Mass on Wednesday.
Then it was a long struggle to secure the statue with straps, balance the weight, keep the pulley chains moving freely without excessive contact with the marble, etc. Shortly after noon they thought they were ready to hoist her upright and made a start before determining that something wasn't right--which may have been clearance at the top.

Thru most phases of all this, various onlookers gathered to watch and to take pictures.
Harry Breen is standing at the right. He is extremely pleased with both the statue and its siting.

By 4:00 p.m. they'd gotten the statue upright but facing backwards.  Unfortunately, I missed the raising while out to see a doctor.
These 2 men worked hard for several more hours to turn the statue slowly and dismantle the scaffolding. Finally, on Thursday a.m. we got to see the Help of Christians in her glorious new setting.
The parishioners have been voicing a lot of admiration for this addition to our church.

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