Seattle’s ‘Homeless Jesus’ sculpture is reminder to care for the marginalized

  • Written by Susan Gilmore
  • Published in Local
The “Homeless Jesus” sculpture was installed Aug. 17 outside the Josephinum, home of Christ Our Hope Parish, in downtown Seattle. The artwork is a reminder that “we have to respect the homeless and take care of them,” said Father Paul Magnano, pastor of Christ Our Hope. Photo: Susan Gilmore The “Homeless Jesus” sculpture was installed Aug. 17 outside the Josephinum, home of Christ Our Hope Parish, in downtown Seattle. The artwork is a reminder that “we have to respect the homeless and take care of them,” said Father Paul Magnano, pastor of Christ Our Hope. Photo: Susan Gilmore

SEATTLE – After two years of waiting for city permits, Christ Our Hope Parish has finally installed its “Homeless Jesus” sculpture outside the downtown Seattle church.

The bronze depiction of a person lying under a blanket on a 7-foot-long bench is only recognizable as Jesus by the crucifixion wounds on his feet.

“It’s a very moving and appropriate sculpture for the parish and it reminds us how we have to deal with homelessness,” said Father Paul Magnano, pastor of Christ Our Hope. Soon after the sculpture was installed Aug. 17, two homeless people slept next to it, and visitors are stopping there to pray, he said.

The sculpture was created by Timothy Schmalz, a Catholic from Canada, whose website describes the work as “a visual representation of Matthew 25. The sculpture suggests that Christ is with the most marginalized in our society.”

Homeless Jesus statue installation
Workers drill holes into the sidewalk to install the “Homeless Jesus” sculpture outside the Josephinum, where Christ Our Hope Parish is located. Photo: Courtesy Christ Our Hope Parish

More than 50 of the “Homeless Jesus” statues have been installed in cities around the world, including outside the Office of Papal Charities at the Vatican.

Father Magnano said he was impressed when he read about the first “Homeless Jesus” statue, installed in Toronto in early 2013. He contacted Schmalz, who visited here and decided the downtown church, with its high pedestrian traffic, would be the perfect location for “Homeless Jesus” in Seattle, according to Father Magnano.

Christ Our Hope is located inside the Josephinum, 1902 Second Ave., where Catholic Community Services provides 221 apartments for low-income and formerly homeless people.

The sculpture was funded by the parish’s Annual Catholic Appeal rebate and an anonymous donor, Father Magnano said. “It’s a reminder we have to respect the marginalized,” he said of the artwork. “We have to respect the homeless and take care of them; that’s Jesus in all of them.”

Homeless Jesus statue
Workers lift the bronze “Homeless Jesus” sculpture to set it into the sidewalk outside the Josephinum, where Christ Our Hope Parish is located. Photo: Courtesy Christ Our Hope Parish

In other cities where the statues have been installed, critics have said the money could have been used to help the homeless. Father Magnano said Christ Our Hope Parish already does much to help those in need, including the 240 people living at the Josephinum.

“It’s rare when I don’t go into the church and see the rich and poor sitting side by side,” the pastor said. “It’s a ruse to say, ‘Why not give the money instead of providing something beautiful?’ People need something beautiful; it’s what we are as a church,” he said.

The “Homeless Jesus” sculpture, Father Magnono said, is “a challenge to take care of people who have nothing, living on the street.”