Fr. Robert M. Egan, CSV, Superior General and members of his General Council met this week in Rome for their first meeting — in person — in nearly two years.
Yet, even as they gather to discuss matters related to the worldwide Viatorian Community — serving in 12 countries — a haunting image has impacted them: a bronze sculpture, dedicated to migrants, located in St. Peter’s Square.
“Pope Francis specifically asked that the sculpture be placed in St. Peter’s Square,” Fr. Egan says. “It is a haunting image of the plight of migrants. I suspect the Pope wanted all who visit the cradle of Catholicism to keep migrants in prayer and to work for a just and humane treatment for all migrants.”
The sculpture was created by Canadian artist, Timothy P. Schmalz. He named it “Angels Unaware,” after he was inspired by this passage: “Do not forget to show hospitality to strangers, for by so doing some people have shown hospitality to angels without knowing it.”
The 20-foot tall sculpture was unveiled during Mass on World Day of Migrants and Refugees, in 2019. It features 140 migrants in all, positioned on a boat, representing migrants through the centuries. Among the dozens of depictions are refugees fleeing Nazi Germany and Syria, as well as a boy fleeing the Irish Famine of the 1840s, and Mary and Joseph traveling to Bethlehem.
“This artist has created a tribute,” Fr. Egan said, “to the many migrants facing difficult and dangerous journeys in search of freedom and a better life.”