Two additional statues of two archangels have joined St. Rafael and Tobias in the Memory Garden at the St. Rafael Catholic Church on Lee Blvd., across the road from the Lehigh Walmart.
And recently, Father Dennis Cooney, the priest at St. Rafael Church, held a liturgy celebrating the feast of the three angel statues now standing in the Memory Garden.
Two statues have been added, and they are St. Michael, the archangel who fought against Satan and all his evil angels, defending all the friends of God. Catholics say he is the protector of all humanity from the snares of the devil.
St. Gabriel statue in the Memory Garden of St. Raphael Church.
The second new statue standing in the garden under shaded trees and green plants on a piece of ground next to the church that is less than a quarter acre in size is St. Gabriel who announced to Zachariah the forthcoming birth of John the Baptist, and to Mary, the birth of Jesus.
The statue of Gabriel has overlooked the garden for the past four years. It was a gift, as was the Memorial Garden, of Smiley Walder, who for years worked in Wisconsin and saved her money as a professional secretary, ended up in retirement in Lehigh Acres. Once she had enough money to have the statue of St. Gabriel commissioned, she paid more than $54,000 to commission the state by an Italian sculptor. She paid another $5,000 to have the statue delivered to Lehigh Acres.
The two new bronze-colored statues stand about six feet or more and were commissioned by St. Raphael's Church to a retired Lehigh sculptor, Michael Krizman, who also was a teacher over the years.
Krizman and his wife, Jan, are members of St. Raphael's and very devoted Catholics often attending every morning Mass.
Krizman used his artistic abilities to draw the likeness of both saints, using the Bible and his ideas of the two highly-honored saints. "I took some time making sketches of each of them, improved on my work, and finally began to make a mold of the two saints.
St. Raphael's Church paid for the materials and Krizman, who worked out of his house, spent several months, donated his expertise service to the church.
Smiley Walder, the originator of the Memorial Garden, said the two new additions to the quiet place where people of any denomination can come and sit on benches under the shade, "were just absolutely beautiful."
"Nobody can do better than Mr. Krizman. I am so appreciative of his work and how it has affected our Memory Garden. Walder had the garden created under the auspices of the church to honor her late parents who she said taught her godly values and raised her in the church.
She is so impressed with Krizman's works that she now has commissioned him to sculpt a statue of her favorite saint, Gabriel for her yard at home.
While the Memorial Garden received the blessings of the church in 2008, Father Cooney recently held a ceremony to again bless the garden and the two new statues. The ceremony was held following Mass of the Feast of Saints Michael, Gabriel and Raphael a few weeks ago.
Following the dedication of the archangel statues, there was a pot-luck dinner and a theatrical skit by on by the church's children members.
Krizman explained the making of the statue, using polyester resins and bronze dust, broken down, he said to a finer power than baby's powder.
Once the two archangel statues were removed from the molds made by Krizman, they were destroyed.
"That means we have the originals here for all time. There will never be any others made like these," Smiley Walder said. "They will be here for all time along with St. Raphael to comfort those that come to the garden to relax and pray."
It was Father Cooney who asked Krizman to create the two additional statues. And Krizman said he was honored to be asked. There is no paint on any of the three statues and Krizman said they will darken over age.
"I like to see them darken with age, like some of the great statues in Europe," Krizman said. He studied many years ago with the great sculptor Duane Hanson.
The two statutes are probably are worth in the neighborhood of $40,000 or more for each.
For Catholics, the statues have special meanings. In the tradition of the church Michael who is like God became the protector of all humanity from the snares of the devil.
Gabriel, known as representing the strength of God made the announcement of the births of John the Baptist and Mary, the mother of Jesus.
His greeting to the virgin, "Hail, full of grace," is one of the most familiar and frequent prayers of the church. And Raphael recognized as the medicine of God, is the archangel who took care of Tobias on his journey by giving him a fish to use to cure his father, Tobit, of blindness. The fish is shown in the St. Raphael statue. Also shown on the St. Michael statue is a serpent who was trying to get out of Hell.
The addition to the garden comes at a time when St. Raphael's Church is marking its 50th anniversary.
Smiley, as she has been called since being a small child by her grandfather, said the garden is marked with foot stones for the recitation of the Rosary. There are several cement benches in the garden for those who visit to sit and relax and medicate or pray.
"It's not only for our congregation, but for all people in other denominations. All are welcome to stop here for a brief time to rest," she said.