‘Entertaining angels unawares’ - Maryknoll Lay Missioners
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Liz Mach speaks during the Aug, 12 prayer vigil at the “Angels Unawares” sculpture in Minneapolis. Photos by Greg Darr.

On August 12, a group of returned Maryknoll lay missioners (and others affiliated with Maryknoll) from the Twin Cities area hosted a prayer vigil with and for migrants and refugees on the front plaza of the Basilica of St. Mary in Minneapolis. The Maryknollers gathered with others around a bronze statue that is a replica of the celebrated “Angels Unawares” sculpture, which is installed in St. Peter’s Square in Rome.

Close-up of “Angels Unawares” at its location in Minneapolis.

The traveling exhibit of the bronze replica is currently moving through eight cities in the United States before it will arrive at its permanent home at Catholic University in Washington, D.C. Its month-long temporary presence in Minneapolis lasts through the end of August.

Maryknoll Lay Missioners and Maryknoll Fathers and Brothers were among about a dozen church and community groups to host migration and refugee-related activities at the statue. On our day, we provided both information to those visiting and held the prayer service in the early evening.

Through various connections from their volunteer work, returned lay missioners invited three people who have experienced migration and gave them space to tell their stories through words, music and dance. Catrina Huynh-Weiss (a Vietnamese refugee), Jacquie (from Kenya) and Simon (from Uganda) all offered profound testimonies.

They were introduced by Beth Rademacher (Class of 1983 – Brazil). Dave and Patricia Schueller and family (close friends of the Twin Cities Maryknoll community) led all in song to open and close the prayer. Tony Aspholm (Class of 1983 – Brazil) emceed the event, and Louisa Darr, daughter of Greg (Class of 1992 – Kenya) and Charito Darr, read a poem. Greg also recited a “Pilgrim’s Creed,” a prayer he wrote for the occasion.

Marty Roers (Class of 1995 – Kenya and Sudan) shared with the group ways to advocate and to support migrants. The Maryknoll Office for Global Concerns provided resources and suggested actions people can take. Liz Mach (Class of 1976 – Tanzania and Sudan) explained the story behind the “Angels Unawares” statue and introduced the Maryknoll community.

Jacquie leading the Jerusalema Dance

Other returned missioners who participated included Mike Haasl and Mickie Micklewright (Class of 1995 – Venezuela), and Patty and Doug Santos Meeker (Class of 2002 – Brazil).

The original “Angels Unawares” sculpture was commissioned by Pope Francis, created by Canadian artist Timothy Schmalz, and installed in St. Peter’s Square on the World Day of Migrants and Refugees in 2019.

The four-ton bronze boat is packed with 140 life-size people representing worldwide migrants and refugees—ranging from a displaced Cherokee and an African family forced into slavery to a Pole escaping the communist regime. A Syrian refugee from the country’s civil war and a Jew fleeing Nazi Germany join a Protestant escaping the Catholic Counter-Reformation.

The statue, which is topped by angel wings, is named “Angels Unawares” after Hebrews 13:2 — “Be welcoming to strangers; for by so doing many have entertained angels unawares.”

More information on the sculpture and its presence in Minneapolis can be found at:

Watch a short video of Jacquie leading the Jerusalema Dance:



Photos by Greg Darr and Marty Roers

Click on the photos to view full size. 

Liz Mach
Liz Mach served for 44 years (1976 - 2000) as a women’s rights and health advocate and practitioner in East Africa. Now returned to Minnesota, she is Maryknoll Lay Missioners' longest-serving missioner.