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Archbishop blesses statue of St. John Paul II

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2,000-pound statue in permanent position at pastoral centre
By Alistair Burns
The B.C. Catholic

Caption: Archbishop J. Michael Miller, CSB, claps as Michelle Podgurski (left) and her husband Richard pull down a cover in papal colours to reveal a statue of St. John Paul II, nine and a half feet high, June 23. Alistair Burns / The B.C. Catholic.

After nine months of an arduous odyssey with clay, a sculptor's effort to honour the late Pontiff has been immortalized in bronze and blessed.

Local artist Louise Solecki Weir, a graduate of York University in sculpture, successfully bid to sculpt the larger-than-life statue of St. John Paul II, and was commissioned in March 2014. "I was inspired by the fact that he really reached out to people" of all faiths, she said.

Archbishop J. Michael Miller, CSB, blessed the completed statue, nine and a half feet tall, June 23 after it had been permanently placed outside the front entrance to the John Paul II Pastoral Centre. The archbishop praised the Lord for the gifts of the Holy Spirit "bestowed on St. John Paul II, in whose honour we dedicate this statue."

Don Vicic, a major fundraiser, said the statue cost $125,000, and more than 40 people contributed to the cause. Donations were collected at www.rcav.org/john-paul-ii-statue-fundraising-campaign.

The project has been paid off, but remaining funds, as well as any additional funds collected, are going to Catholic higher education, Richard Podgurski, another fundraiser, said.

Weir estimated that the clay statue from which the bronze statue was made weighed over 2,000 pounds. "I had big biceps last year," during the creative process, she quipped.

The statue itself has the Pontiff in his cassock standing with outstretched arms with a hint of a grin, and what Weir called a "warm, welcoming gesture." He appears in his early 60s, about his age when he visited B.C. in 1984.

After she had finished the clay sculpture, the In Bronze foundry in Langley made a rubber reinforced mould in pieces at her Vancouver studio. The mould was filled with wax, cast in bronze, and the pieces welded together.

This is the second time Weir has immortalized the Polish Pontiff. Her first piece, a bronze bust of John Paul II, took four hours a day for a year and a half.

Weir had wanted to raise funds for war veterans, since her father had survived "four years as a prisoner of the Japanese, and he had contacts with the Polish War Veterans' Society," she said in 2012.

Her offer was taken up by a couple, who wish to remain anonymous, who asked her to sculpt not themselves, but the Pope. They donated the finished piece to the archdiocese.

Her father died during her work on that project, and she found sculpting the piece to be a comfort.

Last Updated on Monday, 06 July 2015 08:02  

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