St. Benedict Parish in Waterford to install life-size bronze statue as a reminder that Mary cares for all the little ones
WATERFORD — Catholics across Michigan are using every medium available to get the pro-life message across on the eve of Election Day, with a constitutional amendment on the ballot that would create seismic changes to the state's abortion landscape.
The faithful have hosted information nights, written articles and canvassed door to door — even University of Michigan football coach and committed Catholic Jim Harbaugh has pro-life radio spots running on WJR 760-AM urging people to vote “no” on Proposal 3.
But one parish is invoking an ancient medium to preach a universal truth about God's care for all life: art.
St. Benedict Parish in Waterford has commissioned local artist Mary Dudek to craft a statue inspired by 20th century Italian artist Roberto Ferruzzi’s “Madonna of the Streets,” which features Mary holding a little child, which represents the poor, close to her chest.
The statue has been two years in the making, but providentially, is being installed the week of the election as a sign of the Blessed Mother’s protection of all life, said Fr. Jim Mayworm of St. Benedict.
“I’m not at all suggesting it has been timed intentionally that way by us, but providence has handed it that way to make people think about life as Nov. 8 draws neigh,” Fr. Mayworm told Detroit Catholic. “It might be installed that very day — Election Day — but we’ve been talking about it for a long time, using the statue to make people think about babies in the womb and afterward.”
The statue will be installed in St. Benedict's bell tower garden behind the parish, which has become the “main entrance” to the parish since it leads out into the parking lot.
“We thought of the Madonna immediately, at least something of Mary,” Fr. Mayworm said. “We had to be a little more specific about Mary’s image, and with the pro-life movement going on, the urgency of it, we settled on an image of Mary as having concern for the little ones, particularly maybe those who don’t have parents, the children on the streets, so we came up with idea of the 'Madonna of the Streets.'”
Dudek sketched an adaption of Ferruzzi’s painting and worked with the parish to add more children to the final design to convey the expansive reach of Mary's protection.
“It was really inspiring to talk about the designs, because Fr. Jim saw even more, whether victims of abortion, human trafficking and abuse,” Dudek said. “Mary is our intercessor. Abortion, trafficking, homelessness — these problems can be so giant and massive that it can feel like you can’t tackle them yourself, but we can entrust them to the care of the Blessed Mother.”
The 5-foot-7 statue depicts the Blessed Mother cradling an infant while a little girl is hiding beneath Mary’s mantle. A boy is tugging on her clothing while another boy is picking roses at Mary’s feet.
“I took the idea of her mantle being this protective piece, there to protect, to hide, to comfort people who come to her, especially the kids,” Dudek said. “They are wrapped and nestled inside her mantle, kind of like how you cling to your mom and hold onto her skirt.”
The children resemble different ages and races to cover the scope of humanity that looks to Mary as an intercessor, Dudek said.
Dudek crafted a model of the statue for parishioners to view to help raise some of the $42,000 necessary for its creation. Most of the cost is being covered by a philanthropic group that supports religious art.
The smaller model has also been used for Marian enthronement in the homes of St. Benedict parishioners, Fr. Mayworm said.
“The feedback has been very good,” Fr. Mayworm said. “Mary (Dudek) spoke once from the sanctuary to talk to all the people after Mass. That went over well. They knew most of the funds were coming from philanthropy; we just needed a little more to get this project over the line.”
Dudek wants those who view the statue to see the humanity in the children, the forgotten and abandoned.
Religious art has long been used to spur action, charity and advocacy for the disadvantaged, Dudek said. And at time when the fate of the disadvantaged is on the ballot, she wants the statue to serve as a reminder that Mary intercedes for all in need, regardless of election results.
“After the statue is installed this week, hopefully after the defeat of Proposal 3, it will serve as a reminder to keep coming to the Blessed Mother and to showcase the beauty of motherhood,” Dudek said. “Whether through birth or adoption or through foster care, the kids represent different ages, boys, girls, different ethnicities and all representatives. I hope people see this piece as celebrating the beauty of all human life.”
Unleashed: Called to Create
Watch a video documentary featuring Mary Dudek's work on the Unleash the Gospel website.
Sacred art Parish life Pro-life