Last Friday’s Mass of the Holy Spirit began with the unveiling and dedication of a new statue of Saint Peter on the Warren Street Plaza, in commemoration of Prep’s 150th anniversary. In contrast to the prevailing depictions of Saint Peter in art through the centuries—typically a wise, white-haired, bearded figure representing Peter’s later years as the first pope—this statue, created by noted New Jersey sculptor Brian Hanlon (who is also the son of Rocky Hanlon, ’53), depicts Peter as a young man, a humble fisherman whose future is yet to be written.
Prep President Michael Gomez, Ed.D.,’91 explained the significance of this depiction before the unveiling:
It is essential to our story and the story of every Prep student who has ever walked and will walk down Warren Street to enter our doors. In short, he represents us: imperfect and imperfectable, but someone with the entire world in front of him, someone who is loved by God, who has vast potential to change the world, and who is a masterpiece and a work in progress all at the same time. He is us. And he is a reminder that we are always SUB UMBRA PETRI—under the shadow of Peter.
Mr. Anthony Keating, ’78, read the dedication plaque (pictured below) on behalf of Prep’s 150th anniversary committee before Student Council President Rishi Bhandari, ’23 and Vice President Teddy McCarthy, ’23 unveiled the 7-foot-tall bronze statue.
Fr. Tony Azzarto, S.J., Prep’s Alumni Chaplain, offered a blessing:
We bless this statue of Saint Peter and remind ourselves, our alumni and the community of Jersey City that he had faults as we all do but he accepted an invitation to walk as a friend of Jesus. He took a risk…and that made all the difference. May we and all who look at the statue be inspired to take a risk to make a difference in our world.
Fr. Azzarto built upon this theme in his homily during the Mass. He quoted Robert Ellsberg, author of All Saints, who wrote, “A saint is a genuine human being.” Reflecting on some of Peter’s shortcomings as told in the Gospels, he added that Peter “took a lifetime learning to be human”—that is, learning to treat others with compassion, learning to adapt to challenges, to grow, to take risks. “Peter, our patron, took a risk. He asks Jesus, ‘Where are you staying?’ and Jesus says ‘Come and see.’ Take a risk. Try it out. His life changed. He is excited, energetic, and taking that risk made all the difference in his life.”