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Dedication of mural celebrates "momentous occasion in the life of St. Mary of the Lake”

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Bishop emeritus Dale J. Melczek, St. Mary of the Lake pastor, speaks on evangelization and cultural diversity at the dedication of the Ascension mural at the Gary church on Sept. 23. Filipino artist Edgardo De Guzman and East Chicago muralist Felix Maldonado were open house guests. (Anthony D. Alonzo photo)

 

by MARLENE A. ZLOZA

Northwest Indiana Catholic

 

      GARY – Calling it “a very momentous occasion in the life of St. Mary of the Lake,” Diocese of Gary Bishop Emeritus Dale J. Melczek joyfully dedicated a colorful, 25-by-35-foot mural covering the back wall of the church sanctuary, offering “praise and thanksgiving to God for this art that I think will bring many blessings and inspire us.”

      A look of wonder was reflected on the faces of approximately 200 parishioners and neighbors from the Miller community as they entered through the open doors and approached the vivid artwork drawing them toward the altar.

      “I’m in complete celebration mode, “said Jack Denges, parish music minister and Liturgy Committee member who “searched abstract/modern art on the Internet. This painting by Edgardo de Guzman popped up” and Denges immediately emailed his desire to acquire the prism color pencil drawing for his modern-style church dedicated in 1962. “He said we could use the painting free ‘if it was for the glory of God,’ but a day later, Denges learned the original painting had been sold in Taiwan and was no longer available.

      “He kept sending me samples of other paintings, but we really loved ‘The Ascension,’ so Mr. Guzman finally said ‘I’ll just draw you a new version’ and I had it three days later,” Denges said.

      “It usually takes me three days to finish a drawing, but I painted this one in one day because I wanted to get it to Jack for approval,” said Guzman, who made his first trip to the U.S. from his native Philippines 8,133 miles away to witness the dedication thanks to the generosity of benefactors.

      Jack Tonk, a parishioner for 48 years, considered it essential to host Guzman. “I said, ‘Just get him a ticket, and I’ll get the money,’ and he went talked to people privately 21to raise the funds. “This is a very tight-knit community. We all support one another.”

      “I was awed, I almost cried,” Guzman admitted of his first glimpse of the mural painted by artist Felix Maldonado of East Chicago. “It is a great privilege and honor to be present today.”

      Titled “The Ascension of Christ,” Guzman’s drawing had to be greatly enlarged to cover an uninspiring “board painted mustard gold,” said Denges. “At a Liturgy Committee meeting, I said that we had to change that (backdrop). It was quite a task to present such an undertaking to the people, but two committees approved it unanimously, and now I haven’t found anyone who doesn’t like it.

      “To me, it makes all of our hard work (worth it), it is our reward for keeping this church open,” Denges added, referring to a plan to close St. Mary of the Lake that received a reprieve from Bishop Donald J. Hying almost three years ago after a small band of dedicated parishioners pledged a revival. Bishop Emeritus Melczek accepted Bishop Hying’s request to pastor the parish established in 1929 and has spearheaded the successful effort to reduce debt and grow the congregation.

      “The mural has definitely drawn people into the church,” said Denges. “Décor is part of liturgy.” Next up, he said, is the addition of professional lighting to spotlight the mural and altar, thanks to the James Bottando family’s donation.

      Bishop Emeritus Melczek, assisted at the dedication by Bishop Emeritus John Nienstedt of the Diocese of Detroit and Father Kevin Scalf, C.PP.S., chair of the Humanities Department and director of Mission Effectiveness at Calumet College of St. Joseph, and occasional Mass celebrant at St. Mary of the Lake, echoed Denges.

      “This mural depicts our great diversity, many different races, ethnicities, interests, (but also shows) we are all saved by the Lord Jesus. . .I hope this mural will allow us to ponder our oneness, our unity. We all have the same purpose, the same mission,” Bishop Emeritus Melczek said.

      “In its abstract form, it most obviously depicts Jesus ascending into heaven, but can also depict Jesus calming the sea, teaching at the Sermon on the Mount, and many New Testament scenes. We can also see ourselves reaching out to Jesus for the mercy and love he came to bring.”

      Maldonado, known for his many outdoor murals throughout Northwest Indiana, notably a Jackson Five depiction, was contacted to trace the figures from the original drawing and paint the mural. “The hardest part was getting to the top – about 30 feet high,” said Maldonado, who used extension ladders and battled 90-degree heat for 8-10 hours a day for seven days, using his favorite medium from the school of graffiti, canned spray paint. “I felt good every day seeing it come along and I wanted to give Edgardo’s work purpose and meaning.

      “I’ve got to give the credit to God,” Maldonado added. “I got to appreciate (Guzman) as an artist. It was a reminder of how marvelous art can be. I’m very proud to be part of it.”

 

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Artist Edgardo De Guzman of The Philippines speaks about his inspiration for serving the Lord through art, at dedication of the Ascension mural at St. Mary of the Lake in Gary on Sept. 23. Bishop emeritus Dale J. Melczek, who is pastor of the Miller neighborhood church, welcomed the artist and East Chicago muralist Felx Maldonado as dozens of parishioners and area residents joined in the event formally introducing the large sancutary painting. (Anthony D. Alonzo photo)

 

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Parishioner Judy Tonk (center) lights a votive candle of a young visitor at the dedication of the Ascension mural at St. Mary of the Lake in Gary on Sept. 23. Bishop emeritus Dale Melczek, pastor of St. Mary of the Lake, welcomed artist Edgardo De Guzman of the Philippines and East Chicago muralist Felx Maldonado as dozens of parishioners and neighborhood residents joined in the event formally introducing the large sancutary painting. (Anthony D. Alonzo photo)

 

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Altar server Gus Wisch (front), 9, leads as Precious Blood Father Kevin Scalf (center) follows, and Bishop emeritus Dale J. Melczek, pastor of St. Mary of the Lake, is last in line during the closing procession at the dedication of the Ascension mural in the Gary church on Sept. 23. Bishop Melczek welcomed artist Edgardo De Guzman of the Philippines and East Chicago muralist Felx Maldonado as dozens of parishioners and neighborhood residents joined in the event formally introducing the large sancutary painting at the Miller parish. (Anthony D. Alonzo photo)

mural paint 1

Felix Maldonado, an East Chicago-based muralist views a colour palette as painting of a large sanctuary mural titled the Ascension continues at St. Mary of the Lake in Gary on July 13. Maldonado, who has used spray paint as his main artistic tool for three decades, is working to complete the modern work of artist Edgardo De Guzman of the Philippines. (Anthony D. Alonzo photo)

 

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