St. Phillip the Apostle Parish gifted with crucifixion painting
By STEVE SEARS, Correspondent
When Father David Monteleone, pastor of St. Philip the Apostle Parish in Clifton, enters his church building and approaches the late Anthony Panzera’s crucifixion painting, he thinks two things.
He said, “Looking at it, you cannot help but see Christ’s humanity. Because in the picture, he is not dead yet, he is still gasping for air. That is something that I recognized right away, and I realized what great love he had for mankind.” He also thinks of the artist himself. “I think of him every time I see it and say a prayer for him.”
Father Monteleone then added, “It is a reminder that without a Good Friday, there could never be an Easter Sunday.”
The beautiful artwork, created and completed in five months while using a live model, was gifted to St. Philip the Apostle Parish by Marie Panzera, the late artist’s wife, in the fall of 2022. It was formally dedicated on the Feast of Christ the King on Nov. 20, 2022.
Panzera attended the dedication with her daughter, Lisa. She said, “It was a very moving experience. I felt Anthony’s presence there, and I know he was smiling down on us.”
Anthony Panzera, who used models in all his human figure works, was a professor emeritus for the Department of Art at Hunter College, City University of New York, where he taught Advanced Figure Drawing for 46 years.
Father Monteleone met the Panzeras during his first parochial vicar assignment at St. Joseph Parish in Mendham in 2013. Father Monteleone afterward moved on to serve as both administrator and pastor at Pequannock’s Holy Spirit Parish and eventually was assigned to St. Philip the Apostle in 2021. It was after he assumed his current pastorship that Panzera spoke with him about “Crucifixion.”
Panzera recalled, “When he (Father Monteleone) was appointed pastor at Holy Spirit, we had become very good friends. He asked Anthony if he would do a cross, a creative cross to be suspended over the altar — partially because Anthony did the cross in the chapel at St. Joseph. That went fine and looks beautiful there, and a while after Anthony passed, I remembered that while I was going through his work, I came upon ‘Crucifixion.’ I asked Father David if he was interested in the painting. He readily agreed.”
And Father Monteleone knows the placement spot for the art is appropriate. He said, “It’s a very big church, but we do not have a lot of wall space, so I went to this spot in the rear of the church where we have the votive candles, and I had my custodian measure it, and it wound up that it would fit perfectly on that wall.”
Panzera agreed and elaborated. “From my perspective, it is in the perfect setting. It is just like it was made for that, and it lends itself to veneration and prayer. I am delighted, and our children are delighted as well.”
Panzera’s feelings are mutually felt by many St. Philip the Apostle parishioners who have expressed their affection for and admiration of it.
Father Monteleone said, “Everyone who has seen it enjoys it a great deal, saying how it looks like it was made for that area, how lifelike it looks, and the attention to detail. The brutality of the crucifixion is shown, but also, many people also feel the humanity of Christ comes through very much as well.”