The statue had its public "debut" May 25, before 25,000 people at the Eucharist Family Rosary Crusade at Kauffman Stadium in Kansas City.
As his budget would dictate, he had the choice between commissioning a 25-feet-tall, 4-ton statue of The Divine Mercy or an in-ground swimming pool for his new housing development.
He went with the statue, as motorists — and most everyone else — in Kansas City, Mo., can attest.
"I figured it would raise curiosity," he said.
And he was right.
Steel statue of Christ causing a stir, blared the five-column headline in the Kansas City Star on Aug. 8. A newscaster on KMBC-TV reported on the "statue mystery" and how the form "cuts a massive figure in the Northland — something of Biblical proportions."
The mystery man responsible for the mysterious statue prefers to remain a mystery. That is, he prefers to remain anonymous, directing the spotlight instead to the statue and the message it represents. He did, however, agree to be interviewed by thedivinemercy.org.
The statue is based on the image of Jesus, The Divine Mercy, as He appeared to St. Faustina in one of a series of revelations in the 1930s. Jesus had His right hand raised in blessing. His left hand was touching His garment in the area of the Heart, from where two large rays came forth, one red and the other pale. Jesus told St. Faustina:
Paint an image according to the pattern you see, with the signature: Jesus, I trust in You. I promise that the soul that will venerate this image will not perish. I also promise victory over [its] enemies already here on earth, especially at the hour of death. I Myself will defend it as My own glory (Diary of St. Faustina, 47-48).
Later, Jesus told St. Faustina, "By means of this image I shall grant many graces to souls" (Diary, 742).
That's what the owner of the statue was hoping for when he had an artist, Dale Lamphere of Sturgis, S.D., cast the statue (which, incidentally, is equipped with a lightning rod). The owner had the statue hoisted upright in June on land he owns beside the I-35. Tens of thousands of motorists pass by the statue each day.
"While putting it up, which took two hours, we had three complaints," he says. "One was a woman down the street who had her house for sale. She said it was going to make it difficult for her to sell her house. She was Catholic. But 95 percent of the comments are positive. Lots of people stop and pray before it, and we've had three people tell us that when we move it, they want to move where we're moving it to."
And the media has given it mostly positive coverage, he says. So much coverage, he says, that he's had to put his foreman in charge of intercepting the media.
He plans to soon move the statue to its permanent home on a 260-acre tract he's developing into a retirement community.
"I thought, well if I'm going to develop that land, I'm going to develop it religiously," the man said. "What could I do to make it more religious? The statue came to mind."
Ten years ago, the man, who is 57, became a daily communicant at a parish that has embraced the message of The Divine Mercy.
"We pray the Chaplet of The Divine Mercy every day after Mass," he says. "This is really special to have a pastor of a parish leading the chaplet every day."
In addition to real estate development, the man also runs five Catholic radio stations, in Kansas and Colorado. On his radio stations, he makes sure the Chaplet is broadcast daily.
The statue had its public debut May 25, before 25,000 people at the Eucharist Family Rosary Crusade at Kauffman Stadium in Kansas City.
Why commission a statue of The Divine Mercy?
"God's got His plan," the man said.
He paused, then added, "Two weeks after putting it up, I think I found out the reason God wanted me to have this statue made and shown publicly. I was reading the Gospel St. Matthew, 13:44-47. It was talking about finding 'the pearl.' I feel like I've found the pearl. The pearl is the understanding of the reality of Jesus and Heaven. I've found this, and now I want to dedicate my whole life to it.
"Still, the hardest part, even for me today, is living up to the writing under the image: The words 'Jesus, I trust in You.' It's tough. That's a tough message to follow. If you trust in Him, you have to just let go of everything. That's the challenge I face and we all face."
It was either a statue or a swimming pool. He trusted Jesus enough to choose the statue. "I can't take credit for that," he said. "God gave me the grace to have the idea to do it. He called me to do it. You have to be open to His graces. He gives you the choice to answer His call or not answer His call."