Dawn Ngwenya, was amongst those present at the unveiling of the ‘Homeless Jesus’, shares her experience of this new landmark installed on the streets just outside the entrance gate of Holy Trinity Catholic Church, the Jesuit parish in Braamfontein.

I had not planned to attend the unveiling of the new sculpture by Timothy P. Schmalz at Holy Trinity Catholic Church in Braamfontein, Johannesburg. It was announced at Sunday mass a week before, but it merely sounded like a nice sentiment to have a sculpture that is housed at the Vatican, as well as on every other continent – another link to add to the things that connect us as Catholics the world over, I thought. It was not until the morning of 6 February, the day of the unveiling, that I was moved to be part of the event…

I came across a Facebook post linking to the South African Jesuits’ website.  A story and images of Homeless Jesus – a small bony figure lying on a park bench, covered only by a thin blanket all the way over the head. The only thing giving away the person’s identity as Jesus were the wounds on his feet.  As I stood there on the day, I was overwhelmed with emotion. It dawned upon me that this deprived, vulnerable and degraded figure could have been a loved one — my very own sister — lying on that bench lacking adequate shelter and warmth and, probably, having gone hungry for days.

That is what compelled me to join the group congregated that evening at Holy Trinity.  A parish that has come to be known for its love and fraternity and hospitality of the many homeless people in Braamfontein. This parish is also close to my heart because it is the chaplaincy for  adjoining WITS university and neighbouring UJ. A place that played an important role in my faith and human formation, and that of many of my friends years ago when we were students.

The unveiling ceremony, presided by Fr Graham Pugin, SJ, Fr Matthew Charlesworth, SJ and deacon Rev Billy Davies; was deeply moving because it was attended by every kind of person that represents Braamfontein: students,  working professionals and, uniquely, the city’s many homeless. We all partook in blessing the new sculpture as we sprinkled holy water upon Jesus, our friend, whom we now saw installed, and keeping company, in the present reality of so many – on the streets of central Johannesburg. May this sculpture be a constant reminder for us to see and seek Jesus in each other all the time.

Blog post by Dawn Ngwenya

The homeless of Braamfontein, Johannesburg bless the ‘Homeless Jesus’ sculpture by Timothy P. Schmalz