A new statue near the intersection of Dunsmuir and Richards streets is lifelike enough that at first glance, one can mistake it for a person resting.
On a bench outside the Holy Rosary Cathedral, “Sleeping Jesus,” the name of the art installation, lies on a park bench with a sculpted cloak over its body.
In a telephone interview, the cathedral’s rector, Rev. Stanley Galvon, told the Straight the piece was installed in May and was designed by an Ontario-based artist named Timothy Schmalz. How Smchalz’s work arrived at a church in Vancouver is a story that reaches around the world.
Several years ago, two sisters in Hong Kong passed away. “And they had a great love for the poor,” Galvon recounted. A Richmond pastor named Father Robert Wong was entrusted as the sisters’ executor. With some of the money they left behind, Wong reached out to Schmalz and commissioned a copy the sculpture for the Holy Rosary Cathedral.
It’s a piece that’s attracted controversy in other cities. In England, for example, public officials rejected a proposal to erect a Homeless Jesus in Westminster, London. But Galvon said that in Vancouver, the reaction has been entirely positive.
Galvon said that with so many homeless people in Vancouver, it can become easy to walk by without paying them any notice or, conversely, feel overwhelmed by the scale of the problem.
“You feel torn apart, in figuring out if you should give them money for coffee or what,” he explained. "This kind of brings that whole set of questions to a focus. Are you doing it for that person? Are you doing it for the Lord? Are you doing it for yourself? It brings together a lot of questions that we all need to ponder as individual in the community.”
Asked what he might want people who pass by the statue to take from it, Galvon replied: “That there is a respect that is due every person. They came from somewhere, they have present needs, and, hopefully, they have a better future.”