By Gerald Misa
MARKHAM, Ontario, Canada — A Markham school named in honor of San Lorenzo Ruiz has scored a statue of the iconic Filipino saint five years after it opened.
The statue was unveiled at the San Lorenzo Ruiz Catholic Elementary School during the Solemn Blessing and Official Opening of New Addition celebrations held last May 6.
The statue, a mid-size sculpture measuring 40″ tall was carved from plaster, according to its sculptor, artist Mogi Mogado. It stands atop a 32″ pedestal that will be installed permanently to grace the school’s foyer area.
“At this height, it is at a comfortable eye-level that is just perfect for the school children to enjoy,” he said.
His version of San Lorenzo incorporates more of Filipino features, the artist explained. Its form was adapted from the gigantic monument that dominates the San Lorenzo Park in front of the Binondo Cathedral in the Philippines.
Unlike the common, generic version that looks anything but Filipino, Mogado said he modeled it from a Filipino priest from the local St. Patrick’s Church, who was of part-Chinese facial features, reflecting the lineage of San Lorenzo.
In blessing the statue, the officiating priest, Rev. Chris Lemieux, said that “idols and statues are primarily symbols of faith that serve to facilitate the connection between the devotees and God.”
He said they are not objects of veneration themselves. “Rather they are the powerful intercessors on our behalf. If I pray and ask San Lorenzo and the other saints to help me pray to the Lord, in my faith I believe my prayer will have a better chance to be heard and answered,” he said.
School Trustee Marlene Mogado and principal Teresa Lombardo, who both did the unveiling, were happy to welcome the statue. The statue was a gift to the school jointly by Trustee Mogado and the School Council.
“With this statue, I feel there is a sense of closing the circle, a sort of giving wholeness to the school,” Trustee Mogado said. “When we talk San Lorenzo to the kids, it will be easier for them to relate to the subject by visualizing him through the statue.”
Principal Lombardo was most grateful as she acknowledged the gift to her school.
“It’s wonderful. It will be like having the blessed soul of San Lorenzo pacing our corridors, his presence among us in every classroom and every school activity,” she said.
“Seeing the new statue will instill more pride in being Filipino. I feel that way, I’m sure it’s the same with the other kababayans,” remarked Madeleine Ong, a Filipino lay church leader active with the St. Patrick’s Church and the Block Rosary Crusade of Toronto.
Among the honored guests present were Director of Education Patricia Preston, and Superintendent of Schools Nancy DiNardo, both of the York Catholic District School Board, and Chair of the SLRCES Council Nathalie Gonsalves.
San Lorenzo Ruiz is the beloved patron saint of Catholic Filipino migrants and overseas Foreign workers (OFWs). He was beatified by Pope John Paul in Manila in 1981, and later canonized in Rome in 1987 making him the first saint from the Philippines.
At the San Lorenzo Ruiz CES gym a satellite church mass, part of the St. Patrick’s Parish, is held at 10:15 every Sunday morning. Since news spread that there was a San Lorenzo church here, devotees from neighboring communities have been flocking to attend the masses, pushing the numbers of Filipino attendees into the majority among the congregation.
Local Filipino community leaders are campaigning for kababayans to attend mass here. Trustee Mogado said that if sufficient numbers are maintained, it may justify building a San Lorenzo church in the area.
For artist Mogado, it will be his latest major artwork that goes into public view. A few blocks away in the same community as SLRCES is the Don Cousens Public School that proudly displays a bust statue sculpted by Mogado of the former city mayor of Markham in whose honor the school is named after.
Mogado also has a bust statue of the Philippine Hero Jose Rizal enshrined at the Filipino Center Toronto, and one of the late founder of Fiesta Filipina Dance Troupe George Aguinaldo at the Fiesta Filipina Community Center in Mississauga. Not to mention numerous art pieces in private collections and at his home, including a backyard gaggle of Canada Geese sculpture and totem poles in his front yard.
Mogi is active in the community. Among his involvements are as Balita associate editor, past president of the Philippine Artist Group of Canada, past treasurer of the Philippine Press Club of Ontario, and as past chancellor of the Canada Region Knights of Rizal. (PR)