As the Diocese of Richmond’s bicentennial commemoration was coming to a close, Bishop Barry C. Knestout unveiled, dedicated and blessed a statue of the diocese’s patron saint, St. Vincent de Paul, outside the Pastoral Center, Tuesday, Jan. 12.
The livestreamed ceremony took place on the third anniversary of his installation as the 13th bishop of the diocese.
During his remarks, the bishop said that St. Vincent de Paul “is venerated as the apostle of charity as well as the father of poor because he heroically proclaimed the Gospel, especially to those in need.”
Bishop Knestout noted that the second bishop of the diocese, Bishop Richard Vincent Whelan, likely chose St. Vincent de Paul to be the diocesan patron during the 1840s.
“The characteristics of the Catholic Church in Virginia at that time and for much of our history — rural, missionary and poor — closely aligned with the ministry and legacy of St. Vincent,” the bishop said.
In blessing the statue, Bishop Knestout prayed, “We ask St. Vincent de Paul to intercede for the Church of Richmond so that we may fulfill the exhortation of St. Paul, our bicentennial theme, ‘Shine like stars in the world, as you hold fast to the word of life.’”
Speaking about the statue at the conclusion of the event, Father Anthony E. Marques, chair of the Bicentennial Task Force, said, “This is a beautiful monument to the faith of the diocese and a source of inspiration for all who work here and visit here.”
Father Marques contacted Dixon Studio, a national liturgical arts firm in Staunton, for help in getting the statue.
According to Annie Dixon, project manager for Dixon Studio, the piece is not original, but it is not mass produced. Rather, the studio worked with an American manufacturer to make a casting from the plaster statues there were prominent in churches around the turn of the 20th century.
“The statue has a fiberglass- stone look. It will weather well, is lightweight and reasonably priced,” she said. “It’s a terrific value for churches. They hold the space nicely without breaking the budget.”
Cost for the 5-foot, 40-pound statue, including the pedestal, shipping and installation, was $5,000.
Dixon noted that having the statue of St. Vincent de Paul at the Pastoral Center does something signage can’t do.
“We relate to the real physical representation of the person. That’s what the saints are for — showing them as real people doing real things,” she said. “It’s art — inspirational, devotional art. We haven’t lost the need for art.”