Storm Lake St. Mary’s High School east hallway now has Marian artifacts worthy of a museum thanks to efforts of their chaplain and benefactors. Twenty-one images of the Blessed Virgin Mary from around the world are displayed in a glass display case, images from Guatemala to New Zealand to Poland.
Father Michael Cronin, associate pastor and school chaplain explained he had the idea from his time at St. Meinrad Seminary and School of Theology in Indiana when the rector created a “Mary Hallway” with more than 50 different images of Mary from around the world.
“At least 55 percent of our students are classified as minority students,” he said. “The goal of the project is to help celebrate our diversity and to see how our faith is lived in all cultures.”
Father Cronin also noted that as Mary is the school and parish’s patron saint, she is a role model for us in the way that Mary lives out her faith and love for God.
The display reminds students to ask Mary for her prayers, Father Cronin pointed out.
“Mary is the mother of our spiritual family. These diverse images help us to appreciate how all of us can turn to Mary for her maternal care,” he said.
Once Father Cronin obtained the display area in the school for the Marian project, he began his very selective search and hit the Internet and eBay. He found statues, pendants, and framed artwork. Private donations backed his quest for the perfect images from different continents, making the display a reality.
Some European images are dark with soot, calling to mind the impact candles had on artwork in medieval churches. Eastern European icons represent the church’s Orthodox tradition. The native icons are hand-crafted. The statue of the Immaculate Conception from Spain is at least 200 years old. Lodged in the decorative rocks are two pendants from Jerusalem and Russia.
Father Cronin had to ensure that the images of Mary were displayed to perfection. He enlisted the help of Dale Wordekemper of Benchmark Woodworks to create the shelving and Cary Brown, who “had an eye for design and a love for Mary.”
There is also an image of the world and a lantern, which gives a nod to the Presentation Sisters of the Blessed Virgin Mary, who served St. Mary’s School starting in 1950 and recently celebrated their 300th anniversary.
The chaplain is hopeful that the efforts that went into the Marian display will for many years inspire the faith of students and adults alike and strengthen the devotion to St. Mary’s patron saint.
“God asked (Mary) to do important things and she did it with complete love and trust. She is the mother of God and bore Christ into the world. We help our students to do the same,” Father Cronin said.