Artist thrilled to see reborn Sacred Heart statue find home

Chaldean Bishop Francis Y. Kalabat blesses a refurbished cement statue of the Sacred Heart of Jesus on the corner of Maple and Inkster roads at the Eastern Catholic Re-Evangelization Center in Bloomfield Hills on June 8. (Courtesy of Steve Badalament)

BLOOMFIELD TOWNSHIP — Every day on his way to work, Mark Badalament passed the statue. It was worn, beaten by the weather, mixed among the other cement figures — animals, gothic statues and people.

The five-foot, 800-pound sculpture of Christ and His Sacred Heart was the only religious figure among the bunch.

“It was absolutely neglected. When I drove by it, the person had turned the statue around so it was facing the building. It really disturbed me, not seeing this in a venerated position. It was put away to the side,” Badalament said.

So Badalament, an artist, decided to do something about it.

When the business owner was ready to close up shop, Badalament called his twin brother, Steve, to see whether a new home could be found for the forgotten statue.

“I didn’t want to take on a task and not have a home for it. But one of the priests nearby said they would love to have it, so I decided to buy it and totally redid it,” said Badalament, a member of the Legion of Mary at St. Regis Parish in Bloomfield Hills and parishioner at Holy Name in Birmingham.

The statue was in poor condition, so Badalament immediately got to work.

“When they poured the cement, the head had expanded to where the nose was too big, and it was not a very good look to it,” Badalament said. “I had never worked with cement before. Can you imagine trying to chisel a sidewalk? That’s what it was like. For basically an entire summer, every weekend I had, whenever I had a couple of hours, I would work on it.”

Mark Badalament

Too heavy to move, he first negotiated with the business owner to work on the figure on site, and eventually moved it to his home with the help of five friends, a two-wheeler, a rented trailer and lots of straps.

Once the work was finished, however, there was a problem.

“The first church that it was supposed to go to, there seemed to be some issue,” Badalament said. “It might have been the size, but they came back and said ‘this isn’t going to work.’ Another place I was considering was the Divine Mercy Center, but they didn’t have a need for it.”

After calling around, Badalament’s brother finally found a willing partner in the Eastern Catholic Re-Evangelization Center in Bloomfield Hills.

Deacon Salam Rabban ministers at the center, which serves as a hub for retreats, spiritual direction and events for the Southfield-based Chaldean Eparchy of St. Thomas the Apostle. When he heard the statue was looking for a home, he immediately had an idea.

“We recently remodeled the front area with some trees, and we were thinking about putting a cross there,” Deacon Rabban said. “When Mark and Steve came with this other idea, we thought it would be a perfect place.”

With monthly devotions to the Sacred Heart, healing Masses and regular Bible studies, the center was natural fit for the refurbished sculpture of Jesus.

On June 8, the Feast of the Sacred Heart, Chaldean Bishop Francis Y. Kalabat officially blessed the new installation, which is displayed proudly on the corner of Maple and Inkster roads.

“I’m really tickled pink that it finally has a location, and I’m most proud of the fact that people will be able to see it,” Mark Badalament said.

Though he might not prefer to work with cement in the future, Badalament said he is eager to use his talents to bring the beauty of religious art to places that might have need of it.

“My vocation is in the produce industry, but my avocation is art,” Badalament said. “I love sculpting, mostly in clay, but I also paint. It’s usually either of Our Lady or something religious in nature.”

Badalament doesn’t charge for his works, which he sees as his own contribution to the faith community — especially when he can spread the good news that the Legion of Mary works to promote.

“I’ve often thought when the time comes for me to retire, I know exactly what I’m going to be doing,” Badalament said. “A lot of parishes don’t have a praesidium (a local unit of the Legion of Mary), and I really think they’re missing out. So I’ve made banners and things that pay for myself, so after church gets out, they can give out pamphlets about the Legion of Mary and what they do.”

When it comes to art, Badalament said the satisfaction is in helping others to catch a glimpse of Christ.

“I see things how I want to picture it, like Our Lady at the foot of the cross, and I take that image and try to make it come to life,” Badalament said. “To me, Christ is there. Christ is real. Christ is every day. He’s a part of our lives. So if somebody sees it and they become inspired, and it makes them think of Christ and His Sacred Heart.”