Cultural DiversityNews

Statue to Blessed Mother embraces region’s cultures

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SAN DIEGO — She began to take form in Rome in March 2020, as the deadly grip of the coronavirus was beginning to tighten in Italy. Once finished, she waited weeks for a flight to the U.S. She arrived in San Diego just days before the event where she was to be unveiled, but it was canceled as the region locked down to slow the virus.

Her year-long, 6,300-mile journey finally ended on May 22. That’s when the diocese presented “Mary, Mother of the Church” at its Pentecost Mass for All People, a radiant statue that depicts the rich diversity of local cultures, unified hand-in-hand under the protective mantle of the Blessed Mother.

The diocese’s Office for Ethnic and Intercultural Communities commissioned the 4-foot image after Pope Francis decreed that “the Memorial of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of the Church” be celebrated on the Monday after Pentecost in churches worldwide.

A donation from a local Vietnamese family funded its creation, which was carved in wood by an artist named Alexander Kostner.

The statue depicts the Blessed Mother carrying young Jesus, who is holding St. Peter’s Basilica, a symbol of the earthly Church. Under her mantle at the front are children representing the local cultural families, as designated by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops: Asian-Pacific Islander, Euro American, African American, Hispanic and Native American.

Under her mantle, below her right arm, are pictured St. Joseph, Spouse of the Blessed Virgin Mary and patron of the Universal Church; Venerable Augustus Tolton, a former slave and the first African American priest in the United States; St. Teresa of Calcutta, a universal symbol of God’s preferential love for the poor; and St. Pio of Pietrelcina (“Padre Pio”), the Italian Franciscan priest known for his suffering, humility and miracles.

Below her left arm are pictured St. John Vianney, patron of parish priests; St. Pope John Paul II, remembered for his love for young people and for building bridges with peoples of other faiths; St. Faustina Kowalska, the “Apostle of Divine Mercy,” whose apparitions of Jesus inspired the devotion; and St. José María Robles, a Mexican priest and Knight of Columbus martyred during the Cristero War.

The statue will rest at the Pastoral Center, waiting to accompany the faithful at diocesan Pentecost celebrations, as Mary was present with the apostles at the first one.

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