By Jacqueline Burkepile
Special to The Texas Catholic
COPPELL—Jesus said in Matt. 25:40, “‘Amen, I say to you, whatever you did for one of these least brothers of mine, you did for me.’’ Pastor Msgr. Henry Petter and many parishioners of St. Ann Catholic Church in Coppell hope their new “Homeless Jesus” sculpture will inspire others to take this message to heart.
On April 30, St. Ann Parish hosted an unveiling ceremony of the “Homeless Jesus” sculpture created by artist Timothy Schmalz. The piece is a gift from the parish in honor of Msgr. Petter’s 70th birthday (April 5) and 40th ordination anniversary (May 1). It was also purchased in honor of St. Ann Catholic Church’s 30th anniversary.
The bronze sculpture features Jesus lying on a park bench wrapped in a blanket, with only His feet visible. Additionally, there is room next to Jesus’ feet for someone to sit.
“The statue represents what Jesus says: ‘when you see a homeless person, you see me,’” said Rev. Msgr. Petter, who also has a peace and social justice endowment fund in his name. “It’s supposed to represent anyone who finds themselves in vulnerable positions.”
The parish installed the sculpture in front of the main entrance of the church on April 27, but kept it covered until the unveiling ceremony on April 30. The event featured remarks from Msgr. Petter, Msgr. Milam Joseph, and Msgr. Henry V. Petter Endowment Fund Chair Tony Fleo.
Msgr. Petter closed the ceremony with the sculpture blessing and explained how the image of the “Homeless Jesus” has an important message for society.
“Above all, this image honors Christ’s love for the poor and his desire that each of us care for the needs of our brothers and sisters,” he said. “Therefore, when we honor this image, let us lift up our eyes to Christ who reigns forever with the Father and the Holy Spirit.”
St. Ann parishioners expressed their thoughts of the new sculpture. Many hope it will bring awareness of social justice to the Coppell community.
“I think it’s absolutely fantastic to have this kind of representation in a city like Coppell,” parishioner Laura Kenney said. “We’re not always face-to-face with the homeless, but it’s all around us, and we don’t even witness it. This raises awareness to give to others more freely.”
Parishioner Vina Porter said the statue’s meaning is a wonderful reminder for her as a “person coming back to the faith.”
“It’s a nice reminder of our obligation as Christians—that we should try to be the hands and feet of Jesus every day to everyone that we meet,” said Porter.
Msgr. Petter added that Pope Francis says we need to “smell like sheep,” and serve those outside of the parish vicinity.
“We have to go outside of our boundaries, churches and our comfortable places, and serve those who find themselves very uncomfortable,” Msgr. Petter said. “We’ve got to comfort them.”