Have you noticed the new statue in the backyard garden of St. Agnes? The statue carries the name, Christ the Deacon and is a creation of the artist, Susan Hladky of Gillette, Wyoming. Christ the Deacon was created out of love, healed the grieving, and has brought people to the church.
In the year 2000 Susan Hladky’s only daughter was getting married. In the Hladky family there are private pilots and they owned a plane. On her daughter’s wedding day the family was gathered at the airport greeting guests. Her daughter, Dusty was distracted and walked into the propeller of a plane and died on her wedding day. So, instead of a wedding there was a funeral. Susan and her husband, James took the death of their only daughter very hard and went into seclusion.
During this time the donor’s wife was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. His wife was a lifelong Catholic praying the rosary daily, attending daily Mass, and had more faith than you would ever know. Rightly so she was upset with the diagnoses she received from her doctor. The treatments she endured were very painful and hard on her body. She came to terms with her illness by relating to the Blessed Mother Mary, and shared with her daughter, “I am a handmaiden of the Lord, it is not my way but His way”. She related to our Lord on the cross as she laid flat on her back with her arms outstretched during the radiation treatments.
It was during her time in the hospital that her friend, Susan Hladky visited her. She was able to express her appreciation of the art that Susan created for the Catholic Church. In the end she was in a coma for several days, in the hospital room surrounded by her family she sat straight up in the bed, opened her eyes, smiled, laid back down and died.
After the death of his wife the donor entered into full communion with the Catholic Church surrounded by his family. It ended up that there was one empty chair in the room on that day and the his family imagined their mother sitting on witnessing the event.
It was through the suffering and loss of his wife that the donor contacted Susan Hladky to commission a piece of art to go into the Peace Garden of the local Church. He did not have anything in mind for the statue and trusted the artist’s vision.
When contacted by the donor Susan was not sure she could do it as she was still grieving the lost of her daughter. She eventually agreed. It took three years for her to complete the piece of art, which she titled, Christ the Deacon. During this time the donor went through back surgery and died as a result of the surgery before the piece of art was completed.
In researching the piece Susan was creating she traveled to Jerusalem and studied the clothing that Jesus would have worn and the landscape of the area He would have lived. She named the piece, Christ the Deacon. The office of the deaconate is represented by the deacon’s stole on the statue. The office of the deaconate is one of service, the same of what our Lord witnessed to during his life on earth.
Susan struggled with the face of Christ when creating it. The face held a stern look and every time she remolded it the stern look returned. She conceded in that the stern look reminded her of the look that Jesus would have held when teaching his disciples that we must forgive others as he forgives us.
The shoulders of the statue were broader than Susan wanted, but she came to understand the purpose of the wide shoulders on Christ the Deacon. When looking at the wide shoulders she is reminded of what Jesus shouldered during his lifetime. Also, she is reminded of the burdens we put on Christ’s shoulders today.
The sandals that she created for the feet of Christ the Deacon are similar to the ones that Jesus would have worn during his life. The landscape in which Jesus traveled was difficult and would have been a challenge to walk many miles on.
The hand on Christ the Deacon is soft and stretched outward. Thus, as Christ is always ready to take us in and comfort us.
The piece of art was finished in 2010. Healing came for Susan during her time of creating this piece. She went to her daughter’s home in Denver for the first time since the accident and was able to go through her belongings. She boxed up what was to be donated and what she wanted to keep and closed the door.
Another tragedy struck the Hlasky family. Her husband, James was in a helicopter traveling to attend a hunting trip in South Dakota when the helicopter went down. He perished in the crash.
The original Catholic Church where the statue was placed decided to go in a different direction and wanted Christ the Deacon to be removed. A certified letter was sent to the donor’s daughter stating that the statue was to be removed or it would be cut down. Because of this, the statue was removed and it can be found in the backyard garden of St. Agnes Catholic Church. The original donor’s family now feels like the statue is at home! St. Agnes is full of loving people and the statue is finally home.
Through the artist’s life tragedies and challenges she continues creating artwork. Christ the Deacon healed the artist reminding her that Christ is always there, communicating with us, but are we listening?