'Be Welcoming': New Sculpture Inspires
May 17, 2023
At first glance, the figure looks like a lonely stranger, huddled and frightened.
As you walk around Timothy Schmalz’s stunning bronze sculpture, a new image emerges: an angel with an outreached hand.
The angel’s message—and the title of the artwork: “Be Welcoming.”
Schmalz’s inspiration is Hebrews 13:2. “Be welcoming to the stranger, many have entertained angels unawares.”
“The angel is represented welcoming the viewer to have a seat beside him,” said Schmalz, who describes himself as a visual translator of the Bible.
“This is the type of sculpture I love where it’s interactive. It beckons you to become a part of it,” he said in a YouTube video about the artwork.
Anyone walking or riding by the east side of St. Ambrose Cathedral will be able to experience the sculpture’s fascinating transformation, thanks to the generosity of Charllotte and Bob Janeczko, of St. Francis Parish in West Des Moines.
Inspired by Schmalz’s other sculpture focused on Hebrews 13:2, which rests in St. Peter’s Square in Vatican City, the Janeczkos made it their mission to bring one of his works to the Des Moines Diocese.
“We want everyone to see it and think about it,” Charllotte said. “What does it say to them, and how does it bring people to Christ?”
The life-size image will be installed on the east side of St. Ambrose Cathedral along busy Sixth Avenue, where it will face a multitude of people every day: walkers, cyclists and drivers. It will be lighted at night and accessible to all.
Bishop William Joensen will bless the new sculpture on Friday, May 26.
Welcoming strangers is a foundation of Christianity. Jesus, along with Mary and Joseph, were strangers in a new land when they fled King Herod’s wrath by going to Egypt. When Jesus began his public ministry, he encouraged his followers to welcome the stranger (Matthew 25:35), and St. Paul encouraged Christians to welcome the stranger. (Galatians 3:28)
The Janeczkos first saw Schmalz’s work during a gathering two years ago of Legatus, a group for Catholic business people. They were so inspired, they invited Schmalz to speak to the Des Moines chapter of Legatus and began an effort to bring one of his sculptures to Des Moines.
Their primary reason for placing the sculpture on the campus of St. Ambrose Cathedral is so that it could be seen by as many people as possible. A secondary reason is that it is close to the legendary Pappajohn Sculpture Park, which draws visitors from across the country.
The Catholic Church has a long history of producing beautiful artwork such as paintings, stained glass windows and sculpture a means of educating people, Bob said. In some ways, it seems sculpture has become a lost art, he added.
“I think it’s another three dimensional, tactical art that people can use to practice their religion and see God,” he said. “Sculpting seems to have disappeared. Now, (Schmalz) is bringing it back.”