By Connie Berry
When it came to deciding what a fitting tribute to Bl. Mother Marianne Cope — who is on track to become the first “Saint of Syracuse” —might be, Bishop Robert Cunningham knew where to look. He contacted his old friend, Brian Baker, president and owner of Baker Liturgical Art. The result of several months of collaboration and design meetings, a colorful new mosaic was made of 125,000 pieces of colored glass. The design incorporates Mother Marianne’s time on the island of Molokai where she served the people with Hansen’s Disease who lived there in exile. Baker completed the initial design sketches himself and then traveled to a family-owned company in Carrara, Italy, to oversee the project. He said the tile makers in Italy are “the best in the world.” Baker’s company finally installed the mosaic just one week before the 125th anniversary kick-off events on Nov. 6. He said it was “tricky” to get the mosaic in place in time.
“We put this above other projects,” Baker said. “I made visits to Italy while the mosaic was coming together, as it progressed to my liking. They are all hand-cut glass pieces. It is really fun to see the whole process.”
Baker said it was originally decided to put a brass frame around the 5-feet by 9-feet mosaic. After consulting with Bishop Cunningham, Baker said it was determined that they would instead surround it with a three-inch border made of the same type of marble as the rest of that section of the Cathedral. The mosaic is located on the wall in the front of the Cathedral to the left of the altar.
“That’s 500 pounds worth of marble around the mosaic,” Baker explained.
When the mosaic was completed, Baker traveled to Syracuse from his home base in Connecticut to oversee its installation. He said he’s very happy with the mosaic.
“We’re very pleased with the finished product, and that gives us satisfaction,” he said.
Bishop Cunningham met with the Sisters of St. Francis of the Neumann Communities in Syracuse when he first came up with the idea of a mosaic in honor of Bl. Mother Marianne. Sister Patricia Burkard, OSF, general minister of the community, said “it was a lovely surprise” to the sisters. To have the mosaic blessed by Archbishop Timothy Dolan during the diocese’s special 125th anniversary celebration was a beautiful gesture, she added.
“Any time there is something that will help make Mother Marianne known throughout the diocese, we are very happy. It is one of our goals to make her story and her life known, and we’re grateful to the bishop for his support of the cause,” Sister Patricia said. The sisters’ community will make a special trip to the Cathedral as a group to see the mosaic within a couple of weeks.
The mosaic represents the fruition of an idea the bishop had some months ago and his goal, he explained, is to make more people aware of her incredible story.
“Blessed Marianne Cope is the first person, a Sister of St. Francis from the Diocese of Syracuse, to be recognized for her great works, and beatified as a result of her miraculous intercessions. Undoubtedly, she will soon be the first Saint of Syracuse,” Bishop Cunningham said. “Commissioning the mosaic in her honor and having it installed in our Cathedral is a worthy tribute to her lifelong, tireless work in caring for the sick and infirm in Syracuse, and later in caring for the lepers on Kalaupapa.”