Canadian seminarian Edward Gibney draws on his years as a professional sculptor to give students statues of a "laughing Jesus" when they become deacons, reports the Catholic News Service.
In the small dormitory room that smelled of moist modelling clay, dozens of statues of a laughing Jesus lined wooden shelves against a wall.
The small plaster statuettes showed the Lord reclining on the ground against a rock, his eyes pinched tight and his hand on his chest, which was inflated with a hearty hoot.
"As students become deacons, I give them one," said Edward Gibney, 54, a Canadian seminarian and sculptor from Saskatchewan. He was preparing to be one of nine men ordained to the diaconate in the Basilica of St Paul's Outside the Walls on June 15.
"It doesn't say in the Bible, but I believe he laughed," he said, explaining his motivation for the "Laughing Jesus" motif, adding that the unguarded moment of mirth shows "the human side of Christ."
While the souvenir statuettes were ready to go, Deacon Gibney was still putting the finishing touches on a bust of Msgr Roderick Strange, the former rector of Rome's Pontifical Beda College, which is a seminary for older men run by the Bishops of England and Wales.
"I keep saying it's pretty well done," he told Catholic News Service in early June. But he confessed he has a hard time knowing when to put away the tools as he shaved a bit of soft Plasticine from under the eyes and padded the upper lip with a bit more of the dark gray clay.
An old sculpting professor, he said, used to compare finishing an art piece to raising children and realising, "OK, they're old enough and ready to go out on their own."
It's the same teacher Deacon Gibney pays homage to with his moustache. He said he was asked to show up at the professor's retirement party 20-plus years ago pretending to be a long-lost relative of Spanish surrealist Salvador Dali. He kept the iconic look going when the professor passed away soon after.
Photo: Edward Gibney poses near an almost completed statue of Msgr Roderick Strange in his makeshift studio at the Pontifical Beda College in Rome (CNS)