Sculptor and Knights of Columbus member Ignacio Mogado restores a statue of St. Padre Pio at St. Patrick’s Parish in Markham, Ont. Photo courtesy Ignacio Mogado

Parish Knights rally to restore statues

  • October 4, 2020

It’s an incident that caused some despair among St. Patrick’s parishioners, but they would soon receive some solace with the help of local Knights of Columbus.

The despair was caused by a mid-July incident in which vandals damaged a pair of statues located at the rear of the parish in Markham, Ont., north of Toronto. The solace came when the local Knights rode to the rescue to bring the statues back to their former glory.

“Four or five of my Knights put their own money in for the concrete, the base and the inscription when the statues were first (installed) 10 years ago,” said Paul J. Larocque, the Grand Knight of St. Patrick’s council of the Knights of Columbus. “Within hours they called me and said, ‘we’ve got to act immediately and fix this.’

“So, my role was actually to calm them down,” said Larocque with a chuckle. “I spoke to the pastor (Fr. Dominic Barber) and he was happy that I calmed them down so the police can do their work.”

They’ve done that as York Regional Police commenced an investigation July 12 to identify who mutilated the hand and face of statues of Padre Pio and smashed off a hand and damaged the facial features of a pieta statue showing Mary lifting Jesus off the cross.

Allowing the police to do their work was fine, but for these Knights there was a desire for restoration. So the Knights got to work, provided the supplies and enlisted local sculptor Ignacio Mogado — affectionately known as “Mogi” — to help repair the damaged statues.

It wasn’t long ago that Mogado was a devoted St. Patrick’s congregant and a member of the Knights parish council. For nearly 40 years he attended St. Patrick’s and only left after the founding of Blessed Frederic Ozanam Parish in 2017, since his home falls within the boundaries of the new parish.

His five-week repair quest began in early August. Mogado says the intercession of St. Joseph, the dedicated craftsman, guided him. “When I showed up to work, I would say a prayer to St. Joseph, and I take his temperament,” he said.

The statues’ repair inspired feelings of community and goodwill to mostly heal the emotions of dismay, anger and sadness expressed in the initial aftermath of the vandalism.

Barber penned an article about the restoration entitled “Good Triumphs over Evil.” In it he notes that “it was clear this was not just a job,” but a “labour of love” for Mogado because of the “painstaking care and patience” he demonstrated. Mogado’s wife, Marlene, was also recognized for being a pillar of support during the process. 

The most illuminating insight raised by Barber in his article is that this occurrence reminded him of the “O happy fault” verse recited during the Exsultet proclamation delivered during the Easter Vigil Mass. This line refers to how Jesus’ death and resurrection elevated humanity to a place higher than before the original sin of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden. 

“In the case of our statues — in addition to our community coming together — they look better than they did before,” Barber told The Catholic Register. “This is no comment against the former artist, but the vandalism, not just the restoration, but a greater beauty. This is a sign of how God works. St. Paul said in Romans that what we do out of love always triumphs over what happens out of evil.”

He added that “Mogi rendered a more life-like version of Padre Pio” and “Mary’s facial features were more fleshed out” and captured her “gentleness and mercy.”

Larocque was similarly impressed once the work was completed on Sept. 15. “From an artistic standpoint, everyone in the parish universally agrees the statues looked better than they did before,” said Larocque.

Mogado also did repairs to other cracked or worn statues at the parish untouched by the vandals.

There are no plans to put a protective casing around any of the statues to safeguard against potential future acts of vandalism. Barber notes that parishioners and visitors connect to the figures, often leaving little gifts at the base or by touching the monument while they pray. 

Barber presided over a blessing ceremony for the restored statues Sept. 24, flanked by a Knights of Columbus honour guard that included Mogado in the ranks. 

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