The Academy of Our Lady of Peace’s new Martha McRoskey Place of Peace, which was unveiled earlier this month, houses a Vatican-approved exact casting of Michelangelo’s Pietà. The world-renowned masterpiece depicts the Virgin Mary holding the body of Christ after He has been removed from the cross.
In the late 1930s, in fear of the Nazis destroying priceless works of art, the Vatican commissioned molds of sacred statues. Ninoska Navarro Rocha, a member of the OLP graduating class of 2013, connected her alma mater with Arte Divine, which works to support the Vatican in placing these marble castings of the Pietà.
The casting of the Pietà now installed at OLP serves as a testament to the courageous acts of Catholics, particularly members of the Sisters of St. Joseph, during World War II. The sisters, members of the same order that founded OLP, hid children and adults in their convents and moved them to freedom, often at their own peril.
Through the generosity of benefactors, including the Mogollon Coppel Family and the Boulanger Family, OLP has been gifted a limited commissioned replica of the Pietà, an exact 1:1 cast from the original sculpture, and has restored a historic place on campus in honor of Parents in Prayer founder, board member and alumna parent Martha McRoskey.
The space, which has been named the Martha McRoskey Place of Peace, also includes an official installation of The Butterfly Project, which was founded by educator Jan Landau and artist Cheryl Rattner Price in 2006 at the San Diego Jewish Academy. This artistic and educational project memorializes the 1.5 million children who perished in the Holocaust and honors the survivors.
Featured in the dome above the Pietà are 18 butterflies completed by OLP students. The number 18 is significant in the Jewish faith, representing the letter “chai,” which stands for life. Every painted butterfly memorializes a child who was lost and serves as a symbol of hope that, through remembrance, all may courageously stand up against hate, violence and oppression.
Auxiliary Bishop John P. Dolan and Rabbi Jeremy Gimbel, assistant rabbi at Congregation Beth Israel, blessed the new space and delivered prayers at the site on March 6.