Jim Graves is a Catholic writer and editor living in Newport Beach, California. He previously served as Managing Editor for the Diocese of Orange Bulletin, the official newspaper of the Diocese of Orange, California. His work has appeared in the National Catholic Register, Our Sunday Visitor, Cal Catholic Daily and Catholic World Report.
Large religious statues are an important public profession of the Catholic faith, believes Fr. Sammie Maletta, pastor of St. John the Evangelist Parish in St. John, Indiana (https://www.stjohnparish.org/) and can also lead to conversions by non-Catholics and inactive Catholics who see them. For a time, his church hosted a 33-foot, stainless steel statue of Mary entitled Our Lady of the New Millennium. Now the parish has a 15-foot marble “Great Lady” statue on a large pedestal in the plaza in front of the church. The statue previously was located alongside Route 41 which runs through St. John, and it was moved to the parish grounds in 2013.
St. John the Evangelist Parish was founded in 1839, and is part of the Diocese of Gary, Indiana. A series of churches has existed on the site since its founding; the current church building, an impressive, 43,500 square foot edifice, was dedicated in 2008. Religious statues adorn the grounds of the parish, with the “Great Lady” being among the most prominent.
What benefits has such a large representation of Mary, the Great Lady, brought to the parish?
The presence of the Great Lady just outside the steps of our church serves as a symbol to the awesome reality that is Mary’s protection of our parish, families and visitors. Her outstretched arms are both a reminder and an invitation. They remind us of the grace that flows from her as she intercedes for us before her Son; they are an invitation in that she welcomes each of us into her embrace and wraps us in her mantel of love.
Do you believe it’s helped spread the Faith?
Definitely. Our parish is blessed in many ways but the dual presence of our Perpetual Adoration Chapel as well as the patronage of Mary, signified by the Great Lady at our doors, bring refreshment to numerous visitors and pilgrims of our church. They also serve as a witness and place of encounter for anyone who calls St. John the Evangelist their spiritual home. Being fed by Jesus and Mary through prayer and devotion, we as a community are strengthened in our discipleship and in turn are able to make disciples of others.
What other thoughts would you like to share?
Our mission at St. John the Evangelist is to be a church of disciples who make disciples that love God, love others and serve the poor. As disciples, we understand the need to be refreshed and filled with God’s presence and beauty; it’s only then that we are transformed and are able to touch and transform others, so we welcome people to come walk the shrine, pray before the Great Lady, tour the rectory gardens, visit the Church, and worship with us on the weekend.
For our Mass times or questions about church tours or the rectory gardens, people can contact our parish office at (219) 365-5678.