Hail Mary, Full of Grace 

The story of our St. Mary Statue


St. Mary Statue at Holy Cross A scene from the early years of Holy Cross finds Father John A. Risacher, S.J., our first priest, in the shade of mimosa and magnolia trees−praying, reading, teaching−Dreaming.  

According to the written accounts of late Holy Cross parishioners Anne Duncan and George Thorne, "It was perhaps in this tranquil place that he envisioned a Grotto in honor of Our Lady of Lourdes. Near the bottom of a hill, recessed among trees, within sight of a bubbling brook, she would stand."

In 1944, Father Risacher's vision bore fruit and Our Lady's Grotto was now complete.  

Constructed from Hillsborough stone with a flat surface for flowers at the Holy Mother's feet and a monstrance used for benedictions, the stone formed a protective archway: At the base of the statue, water flowed from the spring and in this sacred space, Mary stood for decades, a loving symbol of "Holy Hope" and devout prayer. A place of contemplation and thanksgiving. 

In 2021, the Holy Cross Men's Society commissioned artist Shambo Medina to create a new vision of Our Lady. Shambo's vision−perhaps fueled in part by his formative years (as our very own Austen Palmer: Baptism, First Communion, Holy Confirmation, High School of Religion)−was one not just about "art making," but of communion.

"This process brought me deep healing. … I prayed to the Great Mother for guidance each step of the way−from the choice of colors to the actual painting. Each day I washed her and offered incense. With my hand in hers, I asked her to guide my heart and my hands. I felt her presence."

An Afro-Expressionist mixed media artist for fifteen years, Shambo's "art-making" tells stories that matter−whether in acrylic or clay, oil or paint, two-dimensional or three−he seeks to evoke the secular and spiritual, "to express the beauty and frustrations of life."  

Our temporary artist-in-residence expressed deep gratitude to the Men's Society and the Altar Society for their support and the gift of an unexpected transformation.

And now as we await the beginning of still another Holy Cross journey with the July arrival of our new priest, Reverend Pius Wekesa, the Holy Mother, in her appointed place and arrayed in holy splendor, welcomes him to her home.

Author: Joyce Ellis, Holy Cross parishioner

Note: Watch for a story coming soon about the wrought iron bench created for the Holy Mary Prayer Garden by Willie Alston, member of the Holy Cross community. 

Tags: St. Mary Statue, Mary Garden

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