Rescued statues embody our Catholic faith

From the Archives
By Mary Woodward
JACKSON – Statues of the Blessed Mother, St. Joseph and other saints are a wonderful part of our church’s tradition. Unfortunately, we Catholics often are accused of worshipping statues.

The way I normally explain it to those making the accusation is having statues in churches and our homes is the same as having photos of our beloved family members adorning our wallets and walls. They are visual images of members of our family in faith.

Praying in front of a statue of St. Peter and lighting a candle sends our prayers heavenward carried through the intercession of that faith family member. Similarly, I have asked for the intercession of my deceased loved ones since they hopefully are closer to the Lord in the next life. Usually that explanation enlightens the person for the most part.

JACKSON – Jesus “consoles” St. Francis in the Bishop’s Cemetery on the grounds of Cathedral of St. Peter. The statues were moved while preparing for Bishop Joseph Latino’s funeral in 2021. (Photos courtesy of archives)

Sadly, there are times when churches close and the statues inside need to be rescued. I recently met a 100-year-old statue of the Blessed Mother rescued by a priest friend from a church that had been damaged by Hurricane Katrina and ultimately had to be closed. The statue is now used for Marian celebrations in his diocese. What a lovely new life for that statue!

As chancellor, I have rescued several statues from several of our diocesan parishes. I wrote recently about the damaged statue from Greenwood Immaculate Heart of Mary Church. That statue currently is being painstakingly repaired, because rightly so, the parish would rather have that antique, beloved image back scarred, than replace it with a new one.

Three other rescued statues came from St. Francis Church in Yazoo City. One of those was Our Lady of Fatima, which now graces the columbarium at St. Richard Church in Jackson. I have to say it is one of the most beautiful statues I have encountered in my statue relief work. Although, she showed the signs of decades of outdoor Delta life, she had a serene presence that enveloped me in her strength and love.

The other two – Sacred Heart of Jesus and St. Francis of Assisi – reside in the Bishop’s Cemetery on the grounds of the Cathedral in Downtown Jackson. Last year during Bishop Joseph Latino’s funeral preparations, the Sacred Heart statue had to be moved to get the vault into the burial plot. The vault man moved it in such a way that the Sacred Heart seems to be consoling St. Francis. We have not moved it back yet because it is rather sweet and because it is rather heavy.

When St. Mary Church in Jackson closed, we found homes for all the statues in that beautiful space. The large Marian statue above the main entrance now stands at Locus Benedictus Retreat Center outside Greenwood as Our Lady, Mother of the Delta.

The Our Lady of Fatima Statue in front of the elementary school was dedicated to Father Peter Quinn, the founding pastor. It now stands in the priests’ section of the cemetery at St. Joseph Church in Gluckstadt where Father Quinn is buried.

St. Jude in Pearl now houses two of the interior wooden statues of St. Joseph and the Blessed Mother. St. Anthony School in Madison received a statue of its patron from the church as well. St. Richard Church placed a Sacred Heart statue in one of its prayer gardens.

Finding homes for these faith family members is quite edifying. There is something about passing on our faith traditions in this unique way that gives joy to all involved. I liken it to providing hospitality for the saints as they continually transcend our lives.

So, the next time you light a candle in front of a statue or pass by that niche in your church, stop and say a prayer with your faith family. You no doubt will find some peace in that moment as you are enveloped in the strength and love of the communion of saints.

(Mary Woodward is Chancellor and Archivist for the Diocese of Jackson)

Our Lady of Fatima sat in the Bishop’s Cemetery before finding a permanent home at St. Richard parish in the columbarium.