Park Ridge Catholic church projects goodwill to community with ‘Divine’ image
Worshippers gather at the Divine Mercy icon displayed outside St. Paul of the Cross Catholic School in Park Ridge. The display will be present through Aug. 17. | Contributed photo
Updated: September 17, 2012 12:02PM
PARK RIDGE — A larger-than-life image of Jesus Christ is drawing the faithful — and, perhaps, the curious — to the grounds of St. Paul of the Cross Catholic Church in Park Ridge.
The 10-foot tall image, suspended in a wooden frame with bouquets of red roses at the base, will be displayed through Aug. 17 in front of St. Paul of the Cross Catholic School, 140 S. Northwest Highway. Known as the Image of the Divine Mercy, it is a reproduction of a painting commissioned by Saint Maria Faustina Kowalska of Poland. The image depicts the resurrected Jesus as Saint Faustina said he appeared to her in a 1931 vision.
It was St. Paul parishioner and Park Ridge resident John Koch who arranged to have the image brought to his parish through the Divine Mercy Project of Chicago.
“The purpose is to show everybody that God is merciful for everyone and we should help each other out, really,” Koch explained.
The Divine Mercy Project was developed by Michael Sullivan, an attorney and former director of evangelization and development for the Sanctuary of The Divine Mercy in Chicago. The idea to share the Divine Mercy with the larger community came to Sullivan while in prayer just over two years ago.
“I was awoken in the middle of the night, I looked at the time and it was 3:33 in the morning,” he shared. “That’s a significant time because the 3 o’clock hour is the hour for divine mercy — it’s the hour Jesus died on the cross — and 33 was the age he was when he died.”
Sullivan got up to pray and it was then that the Divine Mercy Project began to take shape in his mind.
Built around the concept of “prayer in the public square,” the Image of the Divine Mercy was initially displayed for nine days in Chicago’s Daley Plaza during the 2011 Easter season. Twenty-four-hour prayer vigils were conducted around it.
For Sullivan the purpose of the icon is for visitors to focus on God’s mercy.
“If we all really understood in our bones how much the Heavenly Father loves us, it would just transform our entire world,” Sullivan said.
Since 2011 the image has traveled around the Chicago area and suburbs. At St. Paul of the Cross church members are present around the clock to keep vigil over the image and draw citizens to pray. A recitation of the Divine Mercy Chaplet, which includes a series of prayers, takes place at 3 p.m. each day.
Park Ridge residents Mark and Halina Kuczynski, who attended the 3 p.m. prayer Aug. 13, said it is their faith that drew them to the parish to stand before the Divine Mercy image, even on a rainy afternoon.
“Every time I see it and I look in Jesus’ eyes I say, ‘I’m nobody without you,’ ” said Halina Kuczynski, who has seen the original painting in the Sanctuary of Divine Mercy in Krakow, Poland, as well.
Mark Kuczynski came to see the image to express this thankfulness for the gift of life he has been given.
“Jesus Christ performed many, many, many miracles and you can look at me — I’m one of them,” he said.
Due to the connection the image has to Poland, the Image of the Divine Mercy has a particularly special meaning for the Polish community in Park Ridge, Koch said.
He added that he would like to see the image bring many citizens together, including those of different faiths.
“We hope people come away with a better sense of community and just a better attitude towards each other,” he said. “It’s mainly to promote goodwill and mercy toward everybody.”