By Michael Alexander, Staff Photographer | Published November 20, 2013
For nearly a year the Archdiocese of Atlanta has jointly celebrated the papal Year of Faith and the archdiocese’s own Marian Year, which encouraged “a special devotion and emphasis on Mary.” The Georgia Bulletin editors thought it would be a good idea to highlight Mary in a pictorial presentation of Marian images from around the archdiocese.
With nearly 100 parishes and missions and 18 archdiocesan Catholic schools, we had to figure out a way to narrow our focus. Initially I thought we could just go for every church named after Mary since 1963 (also the 50th anniversary of the opening of the Second Vatican Council). But that would have only given us 7 churches and it would have left out 6 churches, including the Shrine of the Immaculate Conception and Immaculate Heart of Mary. That wouldn’t work.
Then I went through all the churches and schools that bore the name of Mary or some variation of it. Seventeen churches and missions and six schools were found taking that approach. That made it more manageable.
I started out on March 19 at the Shrine of the Immaculate Conception and I completed the project on Oct. 1 at Our Lady of the Mount Church, Lookout Mountain. I tried to capture a variety of images in the form of statues, stained glass windows, murals, paintings, etc. There can be multiple images of Mary in a single church or school, so the challenge was trying to find the unique one, the visually captivating one, the one that spoke to that particular church or school’s identity or some combination.
For example, Benedictine monk and artist Brother Martin Erspamer designed the stained glass window from Immaculate Heart of Mary Church, Atlanta. It is part of the Pentecost window in the left transept of IHM Church. “The Pentecost window depicts the apostles gathered around Mary, the mother of Jesus. It is tradition that she was at this gathering, which is considered to be the birth of the church. She is in their midst, with her hands extended in prayer, the model of the praying community,” said Brother Erspamer.
According to Father Patrick Kingery, the pastor of St. Mary Church, Rome, the painting of Mary we used is part of a collection of four paintings given to Father Joseph Cassidy by Princess Eugenia Ruspoli when the present church was built. Father Cassidy was the church’s first pastor. Princess Ruspoli was a convert to the Catholic faith and the sister of Martha Berry, the educator and founder of Berry College in Rome.
Artist Molly Newton did the painting from Immaculate Heart of Mary School, Atlanta. The painting was a gift of gratitude to the school when the younger of her two sons graduated from IHM.
The painting from Our Lady of Mercy High School is the work of 2012 graduate Alexandra Baker. “The paintings were part of an art project that focused on Mexican folk art painting. Students were asked to reflect their own cultural identity in the face of Mary as well as the colorful patterns that surround her,” said school fine arts chair Jennifer Cawley.
These offer a brief background of some of the selected images.
The culmination of the project is a colorful graphic presentation by Georgia Bulletin graphic designer Tom Schulte. The images envelop the traditional Hail Mary prayer on the page. There are also plans to turn the presentation into a poster.
I’ll leave you with a favorite Mary song I often played on my iPod in the car during my travels to or from an assignment during the project. It’s a song simply entitled “Mary” by the a cappella singing group Take 6.