Homeless, unemployed visitors appreciate outdoor crucifix at Sophia’s Kitchen

The steeple of St. Joseph Church in Peoria rises behind the new crucifix, made by Heritage Restoration and Design Studio and recently installed in front of Sophia's Kitchen. (Provided photo)

People who are homeless, unemployed and underemployed have found a kindred spirit waiting for them at Sophia’s Kitchen in Peoria. He’s the one on the crucifix in the parking lot at 103 S. Richard Pryor Place.

Fully divine and fully human, Jesus knew what it was like to be in pain, said Father Jim Pankiewicz, parochial vicar for the Heart of Peoria Catholic Community. He blessed the new crucifix on June 8.

“Jesus suffers with humanity and can identify with our suffering,” he told The Catholic Post. “It’s a sign that God’s in solidarity with those in need.”

Designed and constructed by Heritage Restoration and Design Studio in Peoria, the outdoor standing crucifix is made of cedar that has been treated and stained. On it rests a 50-inch resin corpus that has seven layers of copper coating.

With volunteers, staff and patrons of Sophia’s Kitchen gathered around the new crucifix, Father Jim Pankiewicz offers a blessing before sprinkling it with holy water on June 8. the celebration continued with a cookie reception. (Provided photo)

The traditional sign above Christ’s head — INRI or Jesus of Nazareth, King of the Jews — has been engraved in Hebrew, Latin and Greek.

Wilson Lawn Service Inc. dug the hole and prepared the ground for the cross, which was secured by concrete on May 1. Fresh mulch was placed around the site.

The corpus was secured to the cross once the concrete was set.

“Sometimes this building can be hard to find,” said Claire Crone, director of Sophia’s Kitchen. “As the priests were talking they said they wanted to make sure people knew this was not an ecumenical place. Jesus is real and present and this is a Catholic place they’re coming to.”

As with many things at Sophia’s Kitchen, a generous donor came forward to pay for the project, she said.

“We’ve got the picnic benches out there and a picnic table. I’ve witnessed the homeless population laying on the table and looking up at it or standing before it with their arms folded,” Crone said. “They’re very much taken by it.”

She added that the crucifix is also a conversation starter, prompting people to ask questions.

It’s been a great addition to the campus,” she said. “It makes it identifiable.”

SOPHIA SUNDAY JULY 1

Sophia’s Kitchen serves between 200 and 700 meals from the parish hall of St. Joseph Church Monday through Friday. The need usually rises in the summer when children are on vacation and not receiving meals at school.

Sophia Sunday was established three years ago to raise funds for the meal program. Set for Sunday, July 1, the benefit is hosted by Barry and Vicky Donald, whose daughter Sophia died at the age of 3.

Sophia’s Kitchen is named in her honor.

Planned for 11 a.m. to 4 p.m., Sophia Sunday will be held at the Knights of Columbus Hall, 7403 N. Radnor Road, in Peoria. The menu includes a pulled pork sandwich with coleslaw, baked beans and chips for $9 or a hot dog with the same sides for $5. Take-out orders will be available.

There will also be a silent auction and bake sale.

For more information, call (309) 676-3548, visit CatholicPeoria.com, or look for Sophia’s Angels Kitchen on Facebook.

SPALDING PASTORAL CENTER | 419 NE MADISON AVENUE | PEORIA, IL 61603 | PHONE (309) 671-1550 | FAX (309) 671-1595
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