Diocesan News

Statue at Co-Cathedral of St. Joseph to Show It’s ‘a Place of Action and Creation’

A new statue called “Fatherhood of St. Joseph,” shown in this clay model, is being created by Poughkeepsie artist Christopher Alles and will be installed at the co-cathedral. (Photo: Courtesy of Christopher Alles)

PROSPECT HEIGHTS — A craftsman needs the right space to make a living, and no doubt St. Joseph had his own spot, a workshop, where he also taught his foster son, Jesus, the carpenter’s trade. 

There, the Messiah probably learned woodworking skills, customer service, problem-solving, and tool safety — lessons reinforced with examples of hard work, integrity, and fairness. 

This holy workshop dynamic has emerged in the ongoing development of a new sculpture for the Co-Cathedral of St. Joseph, “Fatherhood of St. Joseph.” 

Sculptor Christopher Alles, the artist, recently sent a photo of a one-third-scale model to Father Christopher Heanue, rector of the co-cathedral. The priest said this image has spurred much excitement. 

The clay rendering shows Jesus’ left hand grasping a tool which, Father Heanue said, will be a carpenter’s mallet in the finished work. St. Joseph stands over Jesus, left hand on the boy’s shoulder, guiding where to strike. 

Feather Heanue said the emotional touch, coupled with this physical touch, is “quite remarkable.” 

“It shows,” he said, “the importance of spending time as parents and children, teaching them, not just the faith, but all the aspects of our lives.” 

Father Heanue noted, however, that a lot of work goes into a project like this, so he expects to see the finished work no sooner than mid-to-late 2025. 

Still, this schedule will allow time to complete another major project at the co-cathedral.

Father Heanue explained the parish must install a ramp to the undercroft (basement) of the co-cathedral. 

The ramp, accessible from Pacific Street, will replace the small building that connects the co-cathedral with the rectory. A “breezeway” above the ramp will be the permanent location for the new sculpture, Father Heanue said. 

The new statue will be positioned at the top of a new ramp at the Co-Cathedral of St. Joseph leading from the ground level to “undercroft,” as depicted in this architectural rendering. (Photo: Rendering via Father Christopher Heanue)

However, no construction work can begin until later this year after DeSales Media Group, the ministry that produces The Tablet, vacates its temporary residency in the undercroft.

The company is nearing completion on a new building just east of the co-cathedral rectory. 

Father Heanue set out last year to develop a life-size sculpture of St. Joseph, patron of the co-cathedral. The only existing statue of the saint is atop the “baldacchino” — the canopy high above the altar. 

Alles is a longtime acquaintance of Father Heanue, who has marveled at the Poughkeepsie-based sculptor’s portfolio of art for sacred spaces. 

For example, Alles sculpted two pieces for the Sheen Center for Thought and Culture in Manhattan, which is the venue of visual and performing arts for the Archdiocese of New York. 

One piece depicts social justice activist Dorothy Day, a candidate for sainthood. The other is a bust of Archbishop Fulton Sheen, the namesake of the center, 

Alles also created two pieces of St. Joseph for a parish in Somers, a town in northern Westchester County. Father Heanue noted, however, that “Fatherhood of St. Joseph” will be different. 

Last year, he sought ideas for the sculpture from an art contest involving diocese youth. The more than 825 entries were beautiful, he said. 

Ultimately, the “workshop” concept became the focus of the project’s design team: Father Heanue and Alles, plus Tom Rozinski, a former parish council president, and Adriana Romanzo, the current president. 

Father Heanue said the workshop concept is appropriate because he wants the co-cathedral to be a place of worship, but also a place where art is created and performed, like the recent classical music concerts held there. 

But spiritual work is also underway at the 112-year-old church complex, he said.

“It’s a place of action and creation,” Father Heanue said. “It’s a place where we’re working on ourselves spiritually. And we’re building ourselves into a community.”