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Bishops to help bless church's tile mosaic

The golden-domed Epiphany of Our Lord Ukrainian Catholic Church has stood for almost a decade, but to parishioners it wasn't quite complete.

They had saved a spot on the exterior wall for an important piece of art that would tell the story behind the name of their church. Saturday almost a dozen Ukrainian Catholic and Ukrainian Orthodox bishops from the United States and Canada are expected to attend a ceremony to bless the colorful 13-foot by 23-foot mosaic installed last spring.

Late last week Monsignor John P. Stevensky explained the piece, which took three days to install and can be seen by passers-by from the Fifth Street N entrance of the church at 434 90th Ave. N.

Done in traditional iconographic style, which is used to portray two-dimensional images of Christ, the saints, angels and other biblical figures, the mosaic shows the baptism of Jesus by John the Baptist. It also tells the story of the manifestation of Jesus as God and the revelation of the blessed Trinity or Theophany, which are celebrated on Jan. 6, he said.

The hand at the top of the mosaic, he said, is the hand of God. The dove, the Holy Spirit. Jesus is portrayed standing in a swirl of subtle blues and greens that represent the River Jordan. Two angels stand on his right. John the Baptist is on his left. And the ax?

That, said Stevensky, is a reminder that John the Baptist was beheaded.

The mosaic was created from artwork drawn by Ivan Denesynko of New York and converted into a mosaic by Casola Stained Glass Studio Inc. in Fort Myers.

The quarter-inch-thick tiles for the mosaic _ "thousands and thousands of glass pieces, eye lashes and everything" _ were made by an Italian company," said Larry Casola, an owner of the Fort Myers company.

It was assembled on the church's exterior wall, "like a big jigsaw puzzle," he said, adding that it should last 75 to 100 years.

The church was actually designed with the mosaic in mind, said John Czerkas, a member of the parish advisory committee.

Though the building was finished almost 10 years ago, the congregation wanted to make sure there was no cracking or settling on the wall on which the mosaic was to be installed, he said.

"We have been looking forward to this for quite a while," he said of the blessing, which will take place at 4 p.m. Saturday.