Our Lady of Hope, a statue of a pregnant Mary, has been erected at Charlottetown’s St. Dunstan’s Basilica. Photo by Doreen Beagan

Mary as mother-to-be enshrined in statue at Charlottetown basilica

By  Doreen Beagan, Catholic Register Special
  • December 20, 2011

CHARLOTTETOWN, PEI - A project begun a couple years ago to affirm the value of the family and the importance of unborn life has resulted in a statue of the Blessed Virgin as a pregnant young woman erected in Charlottetown’s St. Dunstan’s Basilica. 

Named Our Lady of Hope, the statue was a collaborative effort between the local Knights of Columbus, Catholic Women’s League and PEI Right to Life.

“I can’t tell you how delighted I was when I was approached with this suggestion,” said Charlottetown Bishop Richard Grecco, who gave his blessing to the project.

“I am very, very pleased and impressed with the creativity of our lay people in these organizations.”

After many meetings and many discussions, the idea crystallized when John and Edie Broderick happened upon a statue of Our Lady of Hope in the gift store of Our Lady Queen of the Universe Shrine in Orlando, Florida. 

“It depicted Mary as a mother to be. It was exactly what our steering committee had been looking for,” said John Broderick, who brought a miniature statue home to show Grecco. 

“I was immediately reminded that the motto on my Episcopal coat of arms is ‘Hope in the
Lord,’ ” said Grecco. “And when I first saw that beautiful depiction of the Blessed Virgin pregnant with our Lord Jesus, I was deeply touched.” 

By October, an alcove in the foyer of St. Dunstan’s was ready to receive the full-size statue, which was blessed by Grecco. 

The basilica is a perfect location for this symbol of life and hope. It has more than 5,000 visitors annually, is within sight of the Charlottetown waterfront, on the short street the Fathers of Confederation walked at the time of this country’s own conception. The street ends a block away at the Prince Edward Island legislature.

In the same building 20 years ago, the legislative assembly passed a unanimous resolution opposing abortion and requesting federal legislation consistent with this position.   

On seeing the new statue, one parishioner remarked, “It is important to offer people hope, and we need this reminder that we have hope to offer.” 

Grecco notes that Mary experienced many difficulties in life, culminating in her pain at the foot of the cross. 

“In her time and culture, her social condition as a young mother-to-be was distressing. So she can well understand the distress of today’s mothers in difficult circumstances,” said the bishop.

“And yet, she was filled with joy over the child she was carrying, and she always had hope because she clung to the promises of God.”

The Knights’ Francis Brothers, co-ordinator of the project, was struck by the dedication of the board of PEI Right to Life.  

“They are from different faith traditions, but they supported the choice of symbol and its location,” said Brothers. “They never lost sight of the fact that the important question was respect for the child, the rights of the unborn child, and respect for motherhood.”  

Committee member Vernon Buote praised Brothers for his contributions as well.

“Francis Brothers was the driving force behind this project. His passion for this undertaking and his dedication were so strong that he inspired the Councils and many individuals to strongly support it financially,” said Buote.    

Most of the $4,000 project’s costs were covered by donations, memorial bequests and contributed work and materials.

Grecco hopes many people will visit the little alcove and pray to Our Lady of Hope. 

“After all,” he said, “we know how natural it is to turn to our mothers when we need comfort and help. When we turn to our Mother Mary, she will also teach us to hope in the Lord, and to trust in God.”

(Beagan is a freelance writer in Charlottetown, PEI)

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