NEWTOWN TOWNSHIP >> In celebration of Memorial Day, the Church of Saint Andrew on Sunday dedicated and blessed a stunning new sculpture honoring those who have served and are serving their country.
Entitled, “Lest We Forget,” the life-sized bronze statue featuring a soldier being embraced by Jesus Christ, was created by renowned Catholic sculptor Timothy Schmultz and sits amidst a Veterans Prayer Garden built by Eagle Scout candidate Colin Wisniewski from Troop 29.
Schmultz got the idea for the sculpture when he was down in Florida and heard a minister talking about veterans and the experience of people who went through the Vietnam War.
“The idea here is a soldier embracing Jesus,” he said. “What I don’t know is if this is a soldier who died in battle or if he’s a soldier coming home still suffering. It really doesn’t matter. What matters is that it is showing that Jesus is there for this man.
“It’s a very intense piece,” adds Schmultz. “I love this man’s face - the mouth parted, the eyes closed. The intensity of the grip is very powerful,” he said. “As you can see, their heads are together, their bodies are clenched with both of them showing an intensity of emotion.”
As a steady rain fell from the sky, Pastor Monsignor Michael Picardand Parochial Vicarthe Rev. Kyle Adamczyk led a brief dedication and blessing ceremony.
They were flanked by members of Morell Smith American Legion Post 440 in Newtown, the Jesse Soby American Legion Post 148 in Langhorne, Yardley-Makefield Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 6393 and the Warriors Watch.
The church’s parishioners paid for the sculpture through private donations while the prayer garden and courtyard was planned, built and financed through donations and fundraising by Wisniewski under the guidance of Father Kyle.
Wisniewski, a sophomore at St. Joseph’s Prep, worked closely with the church’s maintenance staff, DKC Landscaping and Father Kyle in designing and building the garden courtyard, which includes the insignias of the nation’s six branches of service, a bronze plaque, several benches and at its heart, the stunning sculpture.
“I’ve seen a lot of Eagle Scout projects, but I have never seen anything quite like this,” said Congressman Brian Fitzpatrick. “How beautiful. Standing here and seeing it for the first time, what’s magical about this is that it’s bringing together our military, our Scouts, our church and our creator.
“If you look at the history of all the wars that have been fought by our servicemen and women, the theme has always been the same whether it was the Revolutionary War, World War I, World War II, Korea, Vietnam and the Global War on Terrorism, it’s always been freedom against oppression, freedom against Totalitarianism. And one of those freedoms is freedom of religion, freedom to practice our faith.
“That’s what Colin has honored here today,” said Fitzpatrick, “memorializing our creator who guides our servicemen and women who we are honoring this weekend in everything they do.”
To celebrate the occasion, Fitzpatrick presented American flags flown over the U.S. Capitol to Wisniewski, Pastor Picard, the Rev. Adamcyzk and to Eagle Scout candidate Matt Millevoi who built the Stations of the Cross at Saint Andrew School.
“Colin, we are very proud of you. To Father Kyle, thank you for inspiring him to do this,” said Fitzpatrick, noting that he has included the recognitions in the U.S. Congressional Record, which will be permanently preserved in the National Archives.
Pastor Picard recalled a trip he took to the cemetery in Normandy, France, and being presented with a single yellow rose to keep or to place on a grave of someone he might know.
Not knowing anyone buried there, he decided to walk through several rows of graves and to pray for all the ones buried there. “After three or four rows I decided to stop. I uttered a prayer and placed the rose on the top of one of the stones. Then I looked down and I saw the name of a young man from Johnstown, Pennsylvania. It was just a beautiful experience. I think of that often,” he said.
Calling the new statue “beautiful” and a “magnificent” addition to the church grounds, Picard expressed his thanks to Wisniewski and Millevoi from Troop 29, the church’s maintenance staff for helping to layout the stonework and DKC Landscaping in Langhorne for doing much of the landscaping work.
He also thanked the parishioners at Saint Andrews “who are so wonderfully responsive to everything we try to do to enhance our faith life here. I’m grateful to them and the generosity shown to cover the expenses of this beautiful statue,” he said.
Picard also recognized the work of sculptor Timothy Schmultz of Canada who is known internationally for his “magnificent work.” Another one of his sculptures adorns the front of Saint Andrew School on Wright Road. “I’m delighted Father Kyle saw this statue and now here it is.”
Picard also thanked Father Kyle who he said “took this on with great enthusiasm, great love, great faith and expertise in helping with the design and put a lot of the grunt work in. Magnificently done,” he told Father Kyle.
One of the new benches is dedicated to the memory of longtime Newtown veteran Jim Casey Sr., an early supporter of the project who passed away from COVID in December.
Casey’s wife and family were on hand for the dedication of the prayer garden and sculpture. “It’s a beautiful addition,” said his daughter.
Memorial contributions received by the family following Jim’s death were donated to the “Lest We Forget” statue and courtyard.
Wisniewski thanked the many donors who made the project possible, including the Casey family of Newtown, Russ Davidson and VFW Post 6393 and the parishioners of Saint Andrew.
“Completion of this would never have occurred without my Troop 29 Scouts who spent several Saturdays here working by my side,” said Wisniewski. He also thanked Father Kyle, the church’s head of maintenance and his parents for their support and guidance.
“Most importantly I want to thank all the veterans and those who are currently serving, including my grandfather, Charles Haig,” a veteran and member of VFW Post 6393, he said.
Wisniewski, a Life Scout and a patrol leader with his troop, has been working on the project since last August. He is the son of Nancy and John Wisniewski of Yardley.