Dedication for Mary statue to be held Sunday in St. John
By Diane Krieger Spivak email@example.com May 16, 2011 5:20PM
If you go
What: Reception of Our Lady of the New Millennium
When: 5 p.m. Sunday
Where: St. John the Evangelist Church, 10701 Olcott Ave.,
Updated: September 24, 2012 6:25AM
ST. JOHN — Standing at the feet of a two-story, stainless steel statue of the Blessed Virgin, the wheels were turning in Bob Rinearson’s head, a length of composite wood in his gloved hand.
“You could cut this off,” the retired carpenter said, pointing out a section of the board to Barbara Biernat, Monday morning’s cold wind whipping around them.
Rinearson and Biernat and a handful of others braved the unseasonably biting weather that was compounded by the shade cast on them by the almost 34-feet-tall statue dubbed Our Lady of the New Millennium.
The men and women were putting finishing touches on the “surround” for the statue that will grace the parking lot of St. John the Evangelist Church while a permanent spot is prepared for it down the hill at the Shrine of Christ’s Passion.
The surround, a cityscape of Chicago’s skyscrapers, will cover the huge trailer, the statue’s temporary anchor. A couple dozen volunteers have spent the past several months designing and constructing the backdrop.
“We used 60 sheets of sign board,” said Biernat, a licensed contractor who co-chairs the decoration of the surround with Claudia Zemaitis. Zemaitis recruited architect Robert Priesol, who designed the backdrop, which includes Chicago’s Willis Tower, the Hancock building, Holy Name Cathedral and St. John Evangelist Church.
Priesol chose monochromatic colors in shades of black and white for the facade buildings so as not to detract from the statue.
Sunday is the consecration of the statue. The outdoor ceremony will be officiated by Francis Cardinal George, who heads the Archdiocese of Chicago; Bishop Dale Melczek, spiritual leader of the Catholic Diocese of Gary; and Father Sammie Maletta of the St. John church.
The 8,400-pound statue, which has traveled throughout the Windy City since 1999, became a permanent fixture in St. John a couple of months ago after Francine Demma, widow of the statue’s owner, decided St. John would be the best place for it.
Carl Demma envisioned a huge state of the Madonna as a 9-year-old boy, when he declared that one day he would create one large enough for the entire city to see. Demma commissioned the statue, which took 15 years to complete, at a cost of $500,000. Francine Demma is scheduled to attend Sunday’s consecration.
More than 3,500 lineal feet of lumber and more than 4,000 screws went into the production of the surround, Zemaitis said.
“It’s pretty satisfying to see it come to a culmination,” she said.
“When we finally put the skin on the frame and it fit, it was a hallelujah moment,” Biernat said.
It will take another year and a half to find a permanent location for the statue because the site of the Shrine of Christ’s Passion, where it will be placed, is located on a wetland, Biernat said.
“They have to do soil samples,” Biernat said. “They have to go down 15 feet to hit clay and put in concrete footings and they have to find a piece of land that will support its weight.”
Rinearson, cutting a board that will frame a base to hold flowers at Mary’s feet, said he considered saying no when he was first asked to work on the project. He was glad he didn’t.
“I’m 72 and I ache,” he said. “But somehow God has given me the strength to get up every morning and come here. I feel needed.”
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