Vicki Schmidt of Springfield may be feeling like she needs the patience of a saint as she awaits the eventual dedication of a very special statue that she and her family commissioned two years ago as a tribute to her parents Robert J. and Donna Bozarth Schmidt. The dedication of the life-size bronze statue of St. Teresa of Calcutta was to have taken place on April 26, at Blessed Sacrament Church in Springfield, however the coronavirus pandemic has put the ceremony on hold. For the time being, the statue is being safely housed in an indoor facility.
The idea of commissioning a statue came to Schmidt a few months after her mother’s death on June 13, 2017. “I was flying home from Phoenix on Feb. 5, 2018 and the inspiration to commission a statue of Mother Teresa as a tribute came to me amidst a barrage of tears,” she said. “I knew at that moment that I wanted to explore the idea by calling Timothy P. Schmalz … to see what it would cost to do this.”
The statue, entitled Mother Teresa with Children, features the diminutive nun with three children around her. The statue was cast by Schmalz, a world-renowned bronze sculptor from Ontario, Canada. Schmalz is known for his prolific sacred artwork, which is installed all around the world. Just last autumn, his sculpture Angels Unawares was installed at the Vatican.
“From the minute I contacted Tim’s office it has been a blessed experience,” Schmidt said. “I was able to follow the creation from the first rough sketch which Tim sent us in 2018 and then step by step, from the actual carving of the clay statue to the final bronzing process. It has been incredible to watch this stunning image become a reality.”
As a special tribute to Mother Teresa, Schmalz generously sculpted the statue at his cost, Schmidt says. She was also overwhelmed with gratitude when her father’s second cousins pledged a very substantial amount toward the statue. Other family members and friends donated financial gifts and the parish contributed as well. Additionally, the Staab family of Staab Funeral Homes stepped forward with the donation of a black granite pedestal engraved with quotes from Mother Teresa.
For two years, Schmidt, who is now executive director of Theresians International, has been working with Blessed Sacrament pastor, Father Jeff Grant, and a parish planning committee. “Working with Father Grant, the planning team and collaborating with PJ Staab to plan the environment and pedestal for the dedication has been such a heartwarming process. So many people have come together to make this happen,” she said.
Mother Teresa was a mentor to Schmidt, who as a layperson has worked with the Missionaries of Charity. “Having known Mother Teresa and worked with her sisters for over 15 years, it feels full circle for me,” Schmidt said. She and her family asked that the statue be placed in an area where adults and children will see it often — so that it is a reminder of the Christian responsibility to care for the poor. When the statue is dedicated it will be located in a garden area on the west side of the church at 1725 S. Walnut St., and near the school.
A new date for the dedication ceremony and reception for the statue will be announced when the coronavirus social distancing regulations are lifted. As for Schmidt, she is obviously looking forward to that day. “She is still packed tightly in a wooden shipping crate,” she said. “I haven’t seen the statue yet, just in photos.”
Schmidt knows she will surely be overwhelmed with joy at the dedication. “More than anything, this statue is a tribute to my parents and an opportunity to share it with the parish family at Blessed Sacrament, my parish,” she said. “It’s been an amazing journey and I couldn’t be more grateful. My hope and prayer is that all who stop to pray at this stunning image of Mother Teresa with three children, will be called to remember what her life was about, loving the poorest of the poor.”