Homeless Jesus

Homeless Jesus

Changing Hearts. Changing Minds. Recognizing Christ.

The Basilica of Saint Mary dedicated the new Timothy P. Schmalz Homeless Jesus bronze sculpture on November 19, 2017, the World Day of the Poor, designated by Pope Francis.

The sculpture of a life-size Christ figure shrouded in a blanket on a park bench is an internationally recognized symbol of compassion and awareness for the homeless with sculptures located in major cities throughout the world. 

The meaning of the Homeless Jesus sculpture is to truly change hearts and minds towards people in need. The sculpture is designed to challenge and inspire each of us to be more compassionate and charitable and to see Jesus in each person we meet, and to take action to help end homelessness locally and around the world. The sculpture is a vibrant piece in The Basilica’s sacred art collection.


You should defend those who cannot help themselves. Yes, speak up for the poor and needy and see that they get justice. Proverbs 31:8 

Homeless Jesus Summer

Homeless Jesus Sculpture Q&A

The Basilica is home to an internationally recognized symbol of compassion and awareness for the homeless with an original Timothy P. Schmalz Homeless Jesus Sculpture. 

What is the meaning of this sculpture?

Based on Matthew 25, the Homeless Jesus suggests that Jesus is with the most vulnerable people in our society and it invites us to recognize Jesus in them. It is designed to challenge and inspire each of us to be more compassionate and charitable and to help end homelessness locally and around the world. 

Why was this sculpture selected?
This Homeless Jesus Sculpture strongly evokes our mission to change hearts and minds, and invite concrete actions as we advocate for people in need. It will be an important and strong addition to The Basilica’s sacred art collection.  The sculpture also connects us to other faith communities in cities around the world who have likewise committed to be advocates for change. 

What’s it made of? 
The sculpture is made out of cast bronze. The first sculpture was installed at Regis College, University of Toronto in early 2013. The most prominent location is undoubtedly in Rome outside of the Papal Office of Charities.

Who is the artist, and why was this artist chosen? 
Timothy P. Schmalz is a well-known Canadian sculptor based out of St. Jacobs, Ontario.  His work mainly consists of monumental religious art. His Catholic faith is a deep source of inspiration for his work. Schmalz has said, "If my sculptures are used by people as a tool to think, then I’m very happy. His stated artistic goal is:  “Creating art that has the power to convert. Creating sculpture that deepens our spirituality. Attaining these two goals describes my purpose as an artist.” 

How was this sculpture funded?
This sculpture was funded by a select group of anonymous supporters who are passionate about our Basilica community and our vision to seek the well-being of the city.

What are the other locations of this sculpture?
Currently this sculpture of Homeless Jesus is located in Toronto, London, Dublin, at the Vatican, and in the US in Washington DC; Charleston, West Virginia; Knoxville, Tennessee; Chicago, Illinois; Austin, Texas; Grand Haven, Michigan; Phoenix, Arizona;  Albuquerque, New Mexico; Davidson, North Carolina among other cities.  

What was the process to decide to commission this sculpture for the Basilica? 
Volunteers from our St. Vincent de Paul Steering Committee continuously look for new ways to challenge people’s thoughts on those who are homeless.  Among possible activities and experiences, they recognized the transformative power of art and they explored the sculpture known as Homeless Jesus. They asked homeless members of our community how they would feel about this sculpture.  One individual said they would be honored to have this sculpture at the Basilica.   Another commented “That could be me one night. The Basilica cares for us…all of us.”  After months of prayers, discussion and a retreat the SVdP Steering Committee decided to bring the idea forward to Basilica decision makers.  Each conversation was marked by extended and profound discussions about whether or not to move forward.  In the end, each group saw great value in this initiative and decided to recommend that we move ahead. The Parish Council received these recommendations, and approved the commissioning of the sculpture in early 2017. 

Why don’t you use the money to help people in need, instead of using it for a sculpture? 
For decades, the Basilica parish has offered emergency assistance to those in need.  Whether it’s a new pair of shoes, a bus token, or a sandwich, our parish’s commitment is strong.  Our parish will continue to provide financial support in these and many other ways to those most in need in our community.  This sculpture does not take away from The Basilica’s ongoing and long standing financial commitment to help those in need.  But more is needed.  We need to change people’s hearts and minds. This new sculpture is a way to touch people’s hearts, to challenge people to think in new and different ways when they see someone who is homeless.  How many people do you think see Jesus when they see someone who is homeless?  Our hope is that this sculpture helps people see Jesus in each person they meet. 

We see people who are homeless all the time at the Basilica—do we really need a sculpture to remind us of their need for our compassion and generosity? 
Many of our parishioners welcome all they see.  But there are a great many people who see our homeless friends and guests and feel fear, or ask us to intervene and ask them to leave so they won’t be disturbed by their presence.  

While visitors and guests may see someone who is hungry or down on their luck, how many see them as Jesus? That’s the change in thinking we hope to inspire with this sculpture.  We see this lasting artwork as a unique way to change people’s hearts and minds.  

How was the location selected?
The location was selected based on research from a group including The Basilica’s architects, Director of Liturgy and Sacred Arts, and a landscape architect that examined options and worked through the city processes.  They selected the best possible location for the sculpture on The Basilica campus considering our venerable buildings; assuring good visibility; and providing the space for reflection and meditation.