January 7, 2020
St. Francis in Exultation Statute by Timothy Schmalz
On October 4, 2019 (the Feast Day of Saint Francis of Assisi) Saint Francis of Assisi Parish began a year-long celebration of its 60th anniversary, that will culminate with a special Mass on October 4, 2020 with Bishop Crosby and all the living former priests who served at the parish.
Outreach to those in need has been a hallmark of Saint Francis of Assisi Parish from the beginning, a value that the Parish wanted to highlight throughout the anniversary year as a way of praising and thanking God for the countless blessings and graces received over 60 years. To that end the parish joined in collaboration with “North of 60”, an organization dedicated to helping our neighbours in the Canadian far north who sadly face issues of poverty on a daily basis. The parish agreed to take on three projects over the year that called us to reach out in charity and love to those in need. First, backpacks stuffed with school supplies were collected for the community in Deer Lake in northern Ontario. The objective was to collect 60 backpacks, we collected three times that number. Our second project is to raise funds for Fort Hope, Ontario to help them address health needs in their community, health needs that arise due to the high level of diabetes. Our third project will be the collecting of feminine hygiene products for the communities of Northern Ontario, Quebec and North West Territories.
As part of the anniversary year it was agreed that visual symbols would help commemorate the anniversary. So a banner announcing the anniversary to our local neighbours was placed on the front outside wall of the church; 60 bird houses were made by parishioners and now hang from the trees on the church property; in the spring an anniversary tree will be planted on the grounds; and the absolute highlight was the commissioning of a statue of Saint Francis of Assisi for the front lawn of the church.
We turned to local artist Timothy Schmalz, whose work is found all over the world, including most recently in Saint Peter's Square in Vatican City. A statue that somehow captured the spirit of Saint Francis of Assisi Parish, as inspired by Saint Francis himself, was our desire. We desired a statue that showed a spirit of praise and great joy for all that God has done, a spirit that takes great delight in all of creation, a spirit of welcome and hospitality, and a spirit that was not afraid to dance with joy. The resulting statue was “Saint Francis in Exultation”.
The inspiration for the statue was found in Psalm 149. “Praise the Lord! Sing to the Lord a new song, his praise in the assembly of the faithful. Let Israel be glad in its Maker; let the children of Zion rejoice in their King. Let them praise his name with dancing, making melody to him with tambourine and lyre. For the Lord takes pleasure in his people; he adorns the humble with victory. Let the faithful exult in glory; let them sing for joy on their couches. Let the high praises of God be in their throats ...” The life-size statue of Francis of Assisi shows him dancing and singing with great joy with arms outstretched in praise of God. Saint Francis is clearly inviting all creation to join with him in praising God with song and dance. Francis of Assisi now stands at the entrance to our church calling us to come and worship together in praise of our God. For 60 years of un-ending blessings and graces from God the people of Saint Francis of Assisi Parish dance and shout for joy!