A new sculpture of a pregnant Blessed Virgin Mary was unveiled and blessed by Cardinal Wilton Gregory, archbishop of Washington, in front of Theological College, the national seminary of The Catholic University of America, May 17.
Called “Advent” or the “national life monument,” the large bronze statue was presented to Theological College by acclaimed Canadian artist Timothy Schmalz to be a symbol of “the value and sacredness of life” in the nation’s capital.
Pointing to the image of the Madonna cradling her visible unborn child, Schmaltz told those at the dedication that he wants the image to bring hope to everyone, including people who hold an ambiguous position on life and abortion. Schmalz said he believes that beauty will save the world, and he hopes it can save unborn children as well.
“I thought, if I could create a piece that would just be beautiful … if you would look at it and say, ‘you know that is absolutely beautiful’ — that’s a good use of art work,” said Schmalz. “I look at it as a Madonna and child but hopefully even non-religious people can just simply look and see their mother, or see their future and hope.”
Schmalz said the swirling folds of the bronze statue’s abstract drapery are meant to draw the eye to the stainless steel center womb holding the unborn Christ. For this focal point the artist said he chose a mirrored stainless steel to prominently reflect light to passersby, either from the sun during the day or spotlights at night.
“(I wanted) to show the mysticism and the miracle, the amazing idea of human creation within this sculpture,” said Schmalz.
Cardinal Gregory thanked Schmalz for his generosity and for sharing his artistic gifts before he blessed the statue.
“‘Advent,’ as a pregnant Madonna, transcends bronze revealing a deeper significance, deeper truths of God and of us, and his love for each of us, graced as we are in his image and likeness,” the cardinal said.
The original life monument is installed in Church of San Marcello al Corso in Rome. The University’s version, a gift from Schmalz and his patrons Michael and Carole Ritchie, is prominently placed on the front grounds of the Theological College in the Bleichner Sculpture Garden.
This is the second statue by Schmalz to grace the University property. In 2020, Schmalz gifted the University a second casting of his sculpture “Angels Unawares,” an image of migrants and refugees. The original is located in St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome.
Others in attendance at the dedication were Cardinal Marc Ouellet, prefect emeritus of the Dicastery of Bishops; Monsignor Walter Rossi, rector of the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception; Father Dominic Ciriaco, P.S.S., rector of Theological College; Father Daniel Moore, P.S.S., United States provincial superior of the Society of St. Sulpice, and members of the University community.
Theological College is a national Roman Catholic Seminary, affiliated with The Catholic University of America, that is owned and operated by the Society of St. Sulpice.
In his opening remarks, Father Moore said the statue is a reminder that Christians perpetually live in Advent, or a season of hope.
“(The sculpture) ‘Advent’ conveys an immediate understanding of joy, hope, expectancy, and promise, liturgically, theologically, and humanly,” he said. “(It) moves us beyond the immediate — the present — to the past and our future, grace-filled realities and possibilities.”