The man behind the sculpture of late Father Ubald Rugirangoga – which was unveiled on January 7 during a memorial event in Rusizi District – has told The New Times that the statue serves as a symbol of, among other things, the lasting legacy of love and forgiveness that his late friend left behind. Leszek Jan Czelusniak, a 64-year-old Polish missionary from the Marian Fathers of the Immaculate Conception, has lived in Rwanda for 34 years, making an indelible contribution to the country's artistic scene. His focus was on the church's evangelizing artworks. The statue of the esteemed late cleric stands on a hill called Ibanga ry'Amahoro (the secret of peace) in Rusizi District, Western Province. ALSO READ: Believers hail Father Ubald Rugirangoga's legacy as statue honouring late cleric is unveiled Fr Leszek taped into his talent from a very young age. By the age of 16, art was already his source of income. He comes from a religious family of five; including his two parents, and two sisters, with everyone active in church activities in more than one way. At 16, he was already contributing financially at home by selling his artwork or engaging in various gigs to supplement the family income. Young Leszek, however, did not know that he would eventually be a priest. The thought only came after serving in the army during Poland's Martial Law, from 1981 to 1983, when he felt a calling from God to devote his life as a priest.” Even so, he believed that his artistic abilities could still be used in the service of God. Thus, he explained, later, after being ordained, he continued making ecclesiastical artworks, such as paintings of saints. The bronze sculpture of the late Father Ubald holds a special place in my heart, as we not only shared a common calling but we were also good friends, Leszek said. He explained that their “friendship grew stronger” as they travelled on different missions together. The statue is not a representation of the late Father Ubald as a saint. It serves as a symbol of gratitude, remembrance, and the enduring legacy of love and forgiveness that he left behind, Leszek said. Late Father Rugirangoga was widely admired for his sermons on love, repentance, forgiveness, and post-genocide reconciliation. He had dedicated his life to praying for the sick and vulnerable. His prayers were believed to have miraculous healing powers. The bronze statue stands near his grave in Rusizi District. Leszek collaborated with artist Ladislaus Dudek, also from Poland, to bring the vision of the sculpture to life. The design was initially created in clay before being perfected in bronze. According to Leszek, the statue represents an appreciation for everything Father Ubald accomplished during his lifetime.” However, Leszek's contributions extend beyond his sculpting skills. He currently serves as the director of the Marian Evangelization Center of the Congregation of Marians of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary, commonly known as the Marian Fathers. This congregation, established in Poland in 1673, is dedicated to honoring the Immaculate Conception of the Virgin Mary, teaching the poor, and praying for souls in purgatory. Leszek also heads the team overseeing the establishment of the largest Bible Center – that opened in 2021 – in the region, in Kibeho, in Nyaruguru District. If all goes according to plan, the now 90 percent complete Bible Center will be fully established by September. He is working on a revised version of the Bible into Kinyarwanda in preparation for the upcoming 125th jubilee of the Catholic Church in Rwanda. His team is working on a revised version of the 1992 edition of Bibiliya Ntagatifu; doing some corrections and adding more commentaries, especially for the New Testament. According to Leszek, “Rwanda is a resilient country and its history is testament to the fact.” His message as the country celebrates 30 years of liberation is to “never forget” that the journey continues, and that Jesus remains the only way, the truth and the life. He said that as Rwanda remembers the victims of the 1994 Genocide against Tutsi, again, after 30 years, they should remember what the Virgin Mary said in her appearance at Kibeho: “Pray always and single-heartedly,” because bad things happen when you go away from God’s will.