PAYSON — Parishioners gathered in the foyer of San Andres Parish April 29 for the unveiling and blessing of the new statue of their patron, Saint Andrew.
Jesuit Father Joseph S. Rooney blessed the four-foot statue, a gift from the estate of the late Father William H. Flegge, who died April 4, 2009. The statue, which has been placed outside the chapel doors, holds in its right arm the cross in the shape of an X on which St. Andrew was crucified. Its left arm extends out to greet parishioners and guests.
"I was talking with the executor of Fr. Flegge’s estate and he asked me what I would like for the church," said Fr. Rooney, who answered that he would very much like a statue of the parish’s patron saint. "He found a sculptor in the Phoenix area and commissioned him to make the statue."
The bottom of the statue reads, "First Chosen." These words describe Andrew as the first of Jesus’ disciples, said Fr. Rooney. "If you go to Scripture, you find that right after Jesus’ baptism by John the Baptist, he pointed Jesus out to two of his disciples and said, ‘Behold the Lamb of God.’ One of those two was Andrew, and he followed him that day."
Although Andrew was the first apostle chosen, he did not follow Jesus full time, Fr. Rooney said. "Andrew went to his brother, Simon Peter, and told him of Jesus. Later, while they were fishing on the Sea of Galilee, Jesus called them, along with James and John, to follow him and he would make them fishers of men."
After Jesus’ death, Andrew went to into the area of what is now Greece and Turkey and all the way to the Black Sea to preach, said Fr. Rooney. "There was persecution of Christians going on in the area, and they came to Andrew as the leader of the Christians. He was tied on an X-shaped cross and crucified. It is said it took him two days to die."
St. Andrew’s relics are distributed in different places. He is the patron saint of Greece, the state of Georgia in Russia, Croatia, and Scotland, where his cross is on the national flag. He is the patron saint of fishermen, fishmongers and golfers.
The new statue is wonderful, said parishioner Ernestine Folks. "It gives us a symbol of who the patron saint of our parish is, because for so long we haven’t had one," she said. "We’ve only had a picture of St. Andrew, which hangs above the door to our chapel. This will be a source of strength for our parish and a reason for us to come together for celebrations on his feast day."
Fr. Rooney said St. Andrew has been following him throughout his priesthood. "When I entered the Jesuit novitiate in 1953 in New York, it was called St. Andrew on the Hudson," he said. "St. Andrew on the Hudson was named after the first Jesuit novitiate in Rome when Ignatius founded the order and opened his first novitiate around 1550 and named it St. Andrew. Then when I arrived here and it was San Andres, I said ‘He’s still chasing me.’"