Edmonton Archbishop Richard Smith blesses the 500-year-old statue donated to the Discalced Carmelites. Photo by Lincoln Ho

Statue takes long way home

By  Kyle Greenham, Canadian Catholic News
  • September 1, 2019

EDMONTON -- After travelling from Italy to Portugal to China, a 500-year-old wooden statue of the Infant Jesus has reached its final destination — a Carmelite monastery west of Edmonton.

The 16th-century statue depicts Christ as a child wearing a red gown, golden cape and crown. The Tang family has donated it to the Carmelite Monastery of St. Joseph located near Spruce Grove.

For Edmonton’s Cacilda Tang, the Infant Jesus is a cherished symbol of her family’s faith and dedication to prayer. Tang went so far as to call it a childhood friend.

“I remember the times when my mother would carry me and put me in front of the Infant Jesus, telling me to throw a kiss to Him,” Tang said.

“I loved that. I was so small I could only see Him face to face when my mother carried me. I would talk to Him, pray to Him, and, being the youngest of seven children, I took Him as a playmate.”

The statue had been in the Tang family since the 1940s, when Cacilda’s mother, Celeste Vong, found it at a second-hand store in Macau, a former Portuguese colony in China. It is believed the statue made its way from Italy to Macau through Portuguese merchants who travelled and traded in the Orient. It is nearly identical to the Infant Jesus statue on display in the Discalced Carmelite Church of Our Lady Victorious in Prague, Czech Republic.

Tang and her family brought the statue with them when they immigrated to Canada in the 1960s. Their father, Horacio do Conceicao, built an altar for it in the living room, where the family would kneel and pray the rosary every evening.

“Our parents taught us to have great devotion to the Infant Jesus, and to know how our family has been so blessed by the Lord,” Tang said.

The family vowed to give the statue only to a convent or monastery. They had even turned down $3,000 from the University of British Columbia, which wanted it for their Department of Ancient Studies.

The Tangs decided to donate the statue to the Discalced Carmelite nuns — a cloistered, contemplative order near Edmonton — when the family moved to Western Canada. The nuns have sown new red and gold garments for the statue to replace clothing other Carmelites made for the statue when the family originally bought it.

The figure was blessed by Edmonton Archbishop Richard Smith on Aug. 15.

(Grandin Media)

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