REGINA — A statue of St. John Paul II was unveiled at an Oct. 22 special mass and ceremony at St. Anthony’s Church. The statue was unveiled on the saint’s feast date which is also the day he was elected Bishop of Rome. St. Anthony’s Church ministers to the city’s Polish community.
The statue was commissioned by the Marytan Foundation, a private family foundation. Alex Banga, a parishioner of St. Anthony’s, on behalf of the foundation, approached St. Anthony’s Parish Council in 2015 and proposed the foundation’s offer to commission a statue of St. John Paul II.
“The foundation wanted to give praise to one of the great saints of our time,” said Banga in his opening remarks prior to the unveiling. Banga spoke of St. John Paul’s accomplishments as pope, noting particularly his role in eventually ending communist rule in his homeland and in Europe. He was also the most travelled pope in history.
Winnipeg Archbishop Emeritus James Weisgerber in his homily mentioned that it was Pope John Paul II who appointed him bishop. “He was a wonderful man to be with,” said Weisgerber. “He had a great mind.” His election as Bishop of Rome in 1978 came as a big surprise to many as he was the first non-Italian pope in a long time.
“He had a very difficult life living under the communist regime,” said the archbishop. He along with other Polish bishops played a role in Vatican II, said Weisgerber, and he chose the name John Paul II because he wanted to be faithful to John XXIII who established Vatican II and to Paul VI who elevated him to the College of Cardinals. “He was a strong influence on the church and we have to be very very grateful for that.”
The ceremony was followed by a reception and banquet in the church hall, with Regina Archbishop Donald Bolen speaking about St. John Paul II’s life.
The statue was produced by Ferdinand Stuflesser, Val Gardena Valley, Italy. Banga would only say the foundation paid for it and would not reveal the cost. Banga and his wife Mary unveiled the statue which was then blessed by Weisgerber. The pedestal was crafted by Krzysztof Bolesta, a St. Anthony’s parishioner.
The Marytan Foundation is based on the values of respect, dignity and compassion with support for the poor, marginalized and disadvantaged. It also supports religious and charitable organizations that share those common values.