New St. Ignatius statue at Le Moyne reflects college’s Jesuit identity
By luke eggleston
Statues of St. Ignatius of Loyola are standard at Jesuit institutions throughout the world.
Although a statue of the Jesuit order’s patron and founder stands in Grewen Hall on the Le Moyne campus, the school had never considered commissioning its own until two years ago.
The statue in Grewen Hall was a gift from Fordham President Father Joe McShane, SJ. The more recent addition was a gift from the collective efforts of the Le Moyne community.
Le Moyne’s class of 2006, the Jesuit community and alumnus Fred Picardi (class of 1951) raised the $12,000 necessary to commission John Collier to create the newest sculpture.
Collier, whose artwork primarily deals with Catholic subject matter, was the chief sculptor for the Catholic Memorial at Ground Zero, which Cardinal Edward Egan dedicated to the memory of those who died on 9-11 as well as those who took part in the rescue efforts there.
The sculpture of St. Ignatius was completed and installed in the Panasci Family Chapel December 2007. A dedication was held March 11.
Le Moyne’s Director of Annual Giving Programs, Monica Merante, was among the fund raising campaign’s key coordinators. She views the completion of the statue as a testament to the teamwork involved in bringing it to fruition.
“The sculpture of St. Ignatius, crafted with real reverence and understanding of the person and what he accomplished, will grace our chapel for years to come,” Merante said. “It is a reminder of the power of the people working together to make wonderful things happen.”
Father Dan Mulhauser, SJ, noted that having the statue in the Panasci Chapel was important as a representation of the school’s Jesuit character.
“To me, it has a lot to do with our identity. We are a Jesuit college and it only makes sense for us to have a statue of Ignatius in our chapel,” he said.
Merante elaborated on Father Mulhauser’s explanation regarding the relation between the statue and the school’s Jesuit foundation.
“It was a great example of the Ignatian spirit here at Le Moyne as the older alumni generation was working together with the younger alumni generation,” she said. “The foundation of the college is teaching and service, and this project was a great example of that as you had an older alum teaching younger alumni about service.”
Collier entitled the piece “St. Ignatius Loyola: Blessed are those who mourn for they shall be comforted.”
St. Ignatius was born in 1491 and became a very successful soldier until a wound from a cannonball ended his military career. While he was recovering from the wound, St. Ignatius read several spiritual texts and became inspired to lead an ascetic life. St. Ignatius was ordained in 1537 and he founded the Society of Jesus in 1540.
“It seems to me to fit the saint’s life,” Collier said. “He must have mourned over the broken body, over his inability to any longer be a soldier. Broken, he wanted to read about the deeds of brave soldiers, but God had other plans for him. He would become far greater with God and his injury than he had ever been before.”
Images of Collier’s sculpture may be found at http://hillstream.com/collier_sculpture.html.
A program from the dedication event points out that Collier incorporated several symbols from St. Ignatius’ life and from Jesuit principles into the sculpture. St. Ignatius is depicted holding an unspecified book, which could refer either to the time he spent reading during his convalescence or to the association of Jesuits with education. In addition, the saint is figured standing on a cannonball, suggesting a reference to his triumph over the injury he suffered in combat. His simple clothing reveals the asceticism of his spiritual life.
Father Mulhauser offered a slight variant on the artist’s explanation of his work. He observed that the statue is leaning forward and walking away from the cannonball, which he believes suggests St. Ignatius triumph over the injury through spirituality.
“He’s mourning the loss of his military profession but he was consoled by the Lord and felt better,” Father Mulhauser explained. “That period of mourning — occasioned by the cannonball — started in motion his becoming a saint.”
Collier said that St. Ignatius stance was intentional.
“He’s pushing on the cannonball because what was meant to kill him instead saved him. It was that initial push,” Collier said.
St. Ignatius has a weary expression on his face in the sculpture and Collier said that it may reflect his own fatigue. Collier suffered through a variety of illnesses while he was creating the sculpture and he said that turmoil made him identify with St. Ignatius’ own excruciating recovery process.
St. Ignatius’ robes in the sculpture are scalloped in such a way to suggest that he is walking into the wind. Collier said he wanted to give the representation a sense of movement.
“Most of the statues you see in churches are very still and that’s fine. But the Jesuits were off doing things and I wanted to give a sense of that momentum,” Collier said.