Sculpture brings pro-life message to Catholic university in Houston

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Richard Ludwick, president of the University of St. Thomas, left, and Father Dempsey Rosales-Acosta pose next to a bronze statue by sculptor Tim Schmalz in Houston June 5, 2022. The statue portrays a woman carrying a baby in her womb. A smaller version of the statue was dedicated at the Church of San Marcello al Corso in Rome May 29 by Msgr. Vincenzo Paglia, president of the Pontifical Academy for Life. (CNS photo/James Ramos, Texas Catholic Herald)

HOUSTON (CNS) — The dark bronze sculpture seems to shimmer in contrast to the stark white stucco walls and the sharp black granite adjacent to the Chapel of St. Basil at the University of St. Thomas in Houston.

Since early 2022, the Catholic university has hosted the larger-than-life cast bronze sculpture that depicts a veiled mother embracing a child in her womb.

The pro-life work by Canadian sculptor Tim Schmalz represents a Madonna and child, with the child still in the womb, according to a university statement.

The child is suspended in mirrored steel that creates a reflection of the world around it, including nearby trees, the sky above and viewers just feet away. The sculpture shares a peaceful message of a hopeful embrace of life while challenges to the sanctity of life continue around the nation.

Even from far across the university’s Academic Mall, the sculpture is eye-catching at all hours of the day.

A smaller casting of the sculpture was dedicated May 29 at the Church of San Marcello al Corso in Rome by Archbishop Vincenzo Paglia, president of the Pontifical Academy for Life.

A few days later, on June 5, the University of St. Thomas hosted its own blessing ceremony with Father Dempsey Rosales-Acosta, who blessed the sculpture.

The priest, an associate professor of theology, stressed how the work of art was a reminder of the sacredness of human life and the protection of the unborn.

“This sculpture of the Blessed Virgin Mary and the unborn Jesus seeks to remind us of the beauty and sacredness of all human life,” he said, according to a university statement.

“Mary is Christ’s mother, the mother of God, but she is also the image and the model of the Church. This monument invites us to see ourselves in the womb of the world created by God,” he said.

During the ceremony, visitors placed white and yellow roses in and around the sculpture as a sincere act of reverence.

“The fact that this sculpture is here is just one manifestation of how we can celebrate the great gift of his love and life that God gives for all of us,” said the university’s president, Richard Ludwick. “It is perfectly fitting that we have it here at the University of St. Thomas.”

This sculpture, part of a “National Life Monument” series, was set to be showcased on the campus until June 30.

It will then travel to another five locations around the nation before being permanently installed at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington. Organizers also hope to place a life-size version of the artwork in every U.S. state.

Cardinal Daniel N. DiNardo of Galveston-Houston invited the organizers of the sculpture tour to bring the work to the archdiocese.

Schmalz is not averse to sharing messages of life. He is known for his work around the world, including the “Homeless Jesus” and “Angels Unawares,” which was placed in St. Peter’s Square at the Vatican during Pope Francis’ efforts to raise awareness for migrants and refugees.

The latter sculpture now sits in a shallow pool of gently rippling water on a plaza created especially for it on the campus of The Catholic University of America in Washington.

Ramos is a staff writer and designer for the Texas Catholic Herald, newspaper of the Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston.

Catholic News Service

Catholic News Service has reported from the Vatican since the founding of its Rome bureau in 1950.