By Joanna Puddister King and Tereza Ma
JACKSON – Rachel stands perpetually weeping for the loss of innocent life on Lynwood Drive in Jackson near the Special Kids building at St. Richard parish. “Rachel Weeping” is the culmination of a vision that started at the parish years ago in a desire to have a substantial ‘pro-life’ monument permanently present at the church.
“One day a few years back, I … stumbled across a story whose headline said something to the effect of ‘Iceland eliminates down syndrome,'” said Father John Bohn. He was prepared to be amazed by scientific discoveries, but found that they were simply aborting any child who tested positive for Trisomy 21, the condition that leads to down syndrome.
“So, I didn’t think that was a cause for celebration. I thought that it was a tragedy, in large part because our Special Kids program here at St. Richard is really the best part of our parish. I thought about what we’d all miss if these souls had been aborted by their parents before birth simply because they were different,” said Father John.
Commissioned by the Knights of Columbus at St. Richard, the work began in 2017 and was sculpted by Tracy H. Sugg.
The concept of the sculpture is based on the scripture in Jeremiah 31:15 “Behold, Rachel weeping for her children, and she would not be comforted because they were no more.”
Sugg, whose studio is in Tennessee, has been sculpting professionally for about 30 years and has ties to Jackson, earning a master of fine arts from Mississippi College. She also sculpted a piece in the main hall of St. Richard called “Christ Setting Forth the Sacraments,” and has pieces across the country, including “G. V. Sonny Montgomery” at Mississippi State University in Starkville, “Dominican Sister” in the lobby of St. Dominic Hospital in Jackson and “General Tadeusz Kosciuszko” in Kosciusko.
Sugg surrounded Rachel with astounding symbolism from her bare feet to the curls in her loose flowing hair. The Knights requested that Rachel hold a baby blanket, which Sugg took great care to create, using only her hands.
“I wanted to bring home to the viewer the loss of that life. So, I chose to create a sharp contrast between the movement found in the figure to the shocking stillness found in the blanket,” said Sugg. “So, I just have the blanket inert with gravity pulling on it so it has very heavy folds.”
The same folds are also tucked in the sculpture under Rachel’s belt. “The folds are echoed in the blanket and it ties in with her womb and visually creates a connection mentally between the grieving mother and the loss of a child,” said Sugg.
“This sculpture … will continue to show the dignity of human life. It will continue to glorify God and this testimony through the tool of a bronze sculpture. It goes beyond me and beyond all of you. And beyond this generation that is alive right now because it will continue to tell the story long after they are gone,” said Sugg.
“My hands are just the tools. This was the vision of the Knights of Columbus and Father John … we are all a part of this enduring statement that will endlessly cry out to those who view it of the blessed dignity of all human life.”
(More about Sugg’s process for creating Rachel and more about her breathtaking symbolism can be found at www.tracyhsugg.com/rachel-weeping/.)