Sculptress honors St. Marianne Cope
By Pat Shea
Sun associate editor
It took 300 lbs. of clay and roughly five years of dedication, prayer and hard work, but local Syracuse artist Mary Ann Auricchio is more than pleased with the lifelike sculpture she created to honor St. Marianne Cope. The statue is currently displayed in the grotto at the Franciscan Church of the Assumption in Syracuse and has received great interest from parishioners and the public, especially in light of St. Marianne’s October canonization by Pope Benedict XVI.
A call from God
The idea for creating the statue sprang from an unlikely event that occurred in Auricchio’s life several years ago.
“I had gotten terribly sick with shingles,” explained Auricchio. “I was so sick and the blisters were so painful that I spent that summer in bed, convinced I was going to die.”
While convalescing, Auricchio began to read a biography of Mother Marianne Cope. “I was simply awestruck about her life and about the work she did with the lepers. Then I realized that I was like a leper. I began to pray to Mother Marianne and asked her to bring her nursing to my bedside. Almost immediately, I began to feel a presence around me and I started to heal.”
As Auricchio’s healing progressed at a rapid rate, she felt God calling her to create a statue to honor Mother Marianne. “The circumstances just began to fall into place,” explained Auricchio. “I received a lot of help from my husband and from students and faculty at Syracuse University.”
A commercial artist by profession, Auricchio had never before desired to sculpt. But even as excitement grew with the creation of the statue, the process was not without its challenges.
“I had hurt my shoulder in a serious car accident just as I began working on the statue,” explained Auricchio. “Throughout the sculpting I was in constant agony. And then, once I finished the statue, I fired it incorrectly. After a tremendous amount of work, the final result literally turned to dust and I had to begin all over again.”
Despite the obstacles, Auricchio continued to press forward to complete the project. “I felt many times the Devil didn’t want this statue to be completed, but God had it preplanned,” stated Auricchio.
A home for the statue
Once completed, the life-sized statue of Mother Marianne Cope needed a permanent home. “I prayed that God would find the right place for the statue and also a way to move it to wherever it needed to go,” said Auricchio. “God of course provided.”
Clergy from Assumption who had heard about the statue’s existence approached Auricchio. Not only did they want the statue, they provided a forklift to move it to the grotto without incident, where all who see it can now enjoy it.
“Timing was everything with this statue,” explained Auricchio. “From the moment I heard the call to create the statue until it was placed in the church, honoring Mother Marianne was all part of God’s great plan.“