Figure of Christ added to the cross at the Cathedral of the Holy Family

(Photo by Tim Yaworski, Catholic Saskatoon News)

By Kiply Lukan Yaworski, Catholic Saskatoon News

A sculpted figure of Christ was raised onto the cross at the Cathedral of the Holy Family Aug. 4, transforming it into a crucifix.

Bishop Hagemoen said that the new crucifix – created by adding the “corpus” or figure of Christ to the cross – is a reminder for him of two significant scripture passages, namely:

  • Philippians 3:10-11  – “I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the sharing of his sufferings by becoming like him in his death,  if somehow I may attain the resurrection from the dead.”
  • Galatians 6:14  –  “May I never boast of anything except the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world.”

Archbishop Donald Bolen of the Archdiocese of Regina (former bishop of Saskatoon), artist Gregory Furmanczyk of Toronto, and Bishop Mark Hagemoen of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Saskatoon (l-r) examined the life-sized figure of Christ before it was placed on the cross at the Cathedral of the Holy Family in Saskatoon Aug. 4. (Photo by Tim Yaworski, Catholic Saskatoon News)

History of the project

Constructed between 2009-2012, Saskatoon’s cathedral first opened with a stylized cross in the sanctuary, created by Phil Rapin and manufactured in the workshop at adjacent St. Joseph’s High School.

The figure of Christ sculpted by Canadian artist Gregory Furmanczyk – and now suspended in front of the original cross built by Rapin – has transformed the cathedral cross into a crucifix, fitting the design of the building, and meeting the liturgical requirement for a crucifix, says Bishop Mark Hagemoen.

“Since my arrival in Saskatoon, I have received many comments regarding the need for a corpus (figure of Christ) in the sanctuary of the Church,” Hagemoen said. Discussions at the diocesan Liturgical Commission included confirmation that the General Instruction on the Roman Missal (GIRM) indicates the requirement of a crucifix in a Roman Catholic Church, the bishop noted, adding this “was all the more significant an issue for the cathedral of the diocese.”

“This was one of the ‘unfinished elements’ of the building… in the meantime, we used the wonderful hand-carved wooden processional crucifix,” he said.

The life-sized figure of Christ ultimately selected for the cathedral cross came via the efforts of Fr. Stefano Penna, rector at St. Paul’s Co-Cathedral in downtown Saskatoon. During his time in Edmonton, Fr. Penna had employed Canadian artist Gregory Furmanczyk to develop a similar corpus for the new Newman College Chapel in the Archdiocese of Edmonton.

“Fr. Penna also assisted in identifying an interested and supportive donor,” said Bishop Hagemoen.

(Photo by Tim Yaworski, Catholic Saskatoon News)

Artist’s vision

Artist Gregory Furmanczyk described how this particular corpus was originally a private commission. The client did not take possession of the finished piece, but requested that it be donated to a church.

Furmanczyk, a portrait artist and sculptor born born in Papineau County, Quebec, and now based in Toronto, portrayed Jesus in a style echoing Michelangelo’s Pieta. “Artists have been done that for centuries,” the artist said.

“This emphasizes the youth of Christ, it makes Christ look like he’s in his early 30s rather than (having) a big grandfather beard.”


Artist Gregory Furmanczyk, Bishop Mark Hagemoen, and recently appointed cathedral Pastor/Rector Fr. Gerard Cooper (l-r) watch as the carved figure of Christ is raised onto the cross at the Cathedral of the Holy Family in Saskatoon Aug. 4, 2020. (Photo by Tim Yaworski, Catholic Saskatoon News)

Features of the new crucifix

Bishop Mark Hagemoen described working with the parish pastoral council and finance council on the details of the installation this spring. “We are very pleased with the result,” he said, noting the beautiful design of the figure.

“The last words of Jesus  – “It is finished” (Jn. 19:30) – are clear in the expression on the face of the Lord,” the bishop observed.

“The face of the Lord tilts toward the east – the direction of the rising sun and light of the world. Christ’s face turned toward the east from Calvary also signifies awaiting Christ’s return from the East and His Second Coming. This direction in our Cathedral is the place of the ‘Glory’ stained glass window by the artist Sarah Hall. It is also the direction of the location of our Blessed Sacrament Chapel.”

Bishop Hagemoen also noted that the wound by the soldier’s lance on Christ’s right side – “where blood and water poured out (Jn 19:34) from His pierced side – ‘pours’ in the direction of our altar.”

In addition, the texture and colour of the finished plaster “is a wonderful complement” to the feature white Jerusalem limestone wall on which it is mounted, the bishop said.

Bishop Mark Hagemoen, standing before the new crucifix at the Cathedral of the Holy Family in Saskatoon. (Photo by Tim Yaworski, Catholic Saskatoon News)

Gallery of images from installation day Aug. 4, 2020