New statue replaces ‘touchdown Jesus’ at Ascension Cemetery

The new statue of Jesus at Ascension Cemetery.

WICHITA — It doesn’t look like he’ll be scoring anymore touchdowns, but Jesus is back at Ascension Cemetery.

The cemetery at 7200 E. 45th St. North previously was home to a bronze statue of Jesus that was criticized for variety of reasons. Some thought it looked like the statue, which showed the arms of Jesus outstretched high in the air, was indicating a touchdown. Others thought the bronze clouds at his waist made it appear Jesus was wearing a tutu.

Now, there’s a new statue that’s earning more favorable remarks. There was a dedication of the statue on Saturday in conjunction with a Mass for All Souls Day. The statue wasn’t up yet, but it was available for visitors to see.

“They like it very, very much,” says Jim Sheldon, director of cemeteries for the Catholic Diocese of Wichita.

“It looks much better than the touchdown Jesus,” is one of the comments that Sheldon heard.

The arms of the statue are outstretched, but not over his head as before.

“One person compared it to (Jesus) holding the weight of the world on his arms,” Sheldon says.

The former statue of Jesus at Ascension Cemetery.

The statue – the Ascending Christ by Oregon sculptor Rip Caswell – was placed today. There’s still some granite work that needs to be finished near its base.

Sheldon says the new statute was a gift from the late Jerome Gerber, a farmer who also was director of cemeteries from 1993 to 2007.

“He never got to see it.”

Sheldon says that the statue was based on a holy card that Gerber was devoted to.

Gerber’s brother, Bishop Emeritus Eugene Gerber, gave quite a bit of input and final approval of the sculpture, Sheldon says.

He says Jerome Gerber paid for the statue from the proceeds of his final wheat crop.

“For a farmer to donate his last crop, it’s kind of an … important thing to him.”