Blessings set in Raritan for new sculpture, fields

RARITAN — Surrounded by tall stalks of corn and signs of faith in all directions, a new sculpture of St. Isidore and his wife, St. Maria, looks right at home on the grounds of St. Patrick’s Church here.

The patron saints of agriculture, Isidore and Maria are reminders of what prayer and hard work can accomplish together.

This Sunday, Aug. 2, the sculpture will get a long awaited blessing after the parish’s 8 a.m. Mass. Originally planned for May 15, the feast of St. Isidore, the blessing was postponed by — what else? — rain.

Father Kenneth Hummel, pastor and director of the St. Francis of Assisi Newman Center at Western Illinois University in Macomb, said prayers would also be offered for area crops and fields.

The corn in the area is about two weeks behind schedule due to the rain, according to LeRoy and Jean Blindt, who have been members of St. Patrick’s since they were married there in 1954. The couple was chosen as the parish’s recipients of the St. Isidore Rural Family Life Award at last fall’s Diocesan Mass of Thanksgiving for the Fruits of the Harvest.

The sculpture of St. Isidore and St. Maria is meant to honor people like the Blindts, who have an active faith and a family who followed them into agribusiness, said Father Hummel.

Commissioned in 2008, the sculpture was executed by Carl G. Fougerousse of Red Fern Stained Glass and Fine Arts Studio in Savannah, Ga. Not only did he have a master’s degree in fine arts with a specialization in figurative painting from the New York Academy of Art, but he had a bachelor’s degree in philosophy from Franciscan University of Steubenville, Ohio.

Father Hummel said the artist, a devout Catholic, accompanied the finished sculpture to St. Patrick’s last Christmas.

The inspiration for the work was Jean-Francois Millet’s “The Angelus,” which depicts potato farmers taking a break from their work in the fields for midday prayer. Formed of half-inch steel pipe, the sculpture is covered with a contemporary epoxy that is pliable for about two hours and then hardens.

Father Hummel said the rough finish, which was chosen over a more polished look by the artist, fits the outdoor setting.

Contributions from half a dozen parish families made the $12,000 sculpture possible, according to Father Hummel.

“God, through the intercession of the holy farmers, Saints Isidore and Maria, grant that we may overcome all feelings of pride,” says a prayer at the base of the sculpture. “May our fields and livestock be always productive. May we have holy and joyful lives, and after death join you in heaven.”

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