Statue rededicated following complete make over
The history of the statue remains cloudy, but the inspiration for it may have come from members of the Jamestown Holy Ghost Society who were also St. Mark parishoners, according to island native Manuel Neronha, 76. He said that it may have been first unveiled sometime during the early years of World War II, when some of the sons of St Mark's Portuguese and Irish parishioners were serving their nation on deadly foreign ground. It represents the Virgin Mary as she is believed to have appeared to three children in a field outside a tiny Portuguese village in 1917, while World War I was raging and Russia's communist revolution was unfolding.
Ten-year-old Lucy dos Santos and her two six-year-old cousins were tending their sheep on May 13, 1917 when "the lady from heaven" first appeared to them. She visited the children five more times explaining to them that the people of the world needed to repent from sin and pray for peace to avoid a second world war and the spread of communism. Spectators who accompanied the children on successive occasions increased from 50 on June 13 to an estimated 70,000 on Oct. 13, the day marked by a solar phenomenon during which the sun appeared to tumble from the sky.
The St. Mark event Sunday was the culmination of a two-year project to restore the deteriorating statue and redesign its setting. The St. Mark Council of the Knights of Columbus raised $22,000 to pay for the new garden, walkways, benches, and the resurfacing of the statue of Mary who is held in esteem by St. Mark's 800 families. Among the 189 individuals, families, and organizations that contributed to the project was the St. Mark Women's Club, which raised money through the sale of a cookbook with recipes written by parishioners. Copies of the book are still available.
During the ceremony, David Le Doux, grand knight of the St. Mark Council, thanked Jamestown landscape architect Betty Hubbard for volunteering to design the garden surrounding the statue. He also thanked Afonso Andrade, a member of the council who refurbished the iron fence that encircles the garden.
St. Mark pastor, the Rev. William J. O'Neill concluded Sunday's ceremony with prayers and a blessing. "May we who rededicate this statue of Our Lady this morning know her protection and trace in our hearts the pattern of her holiness," he said in part. "May we pray for the peace she promised at Fatima and strive for justice."
The event's organizing committee included Anthony Travisono, chairman, and Knights David and Roy LeDoux, Victor Calabretta, David Nardolillo, Afonso Andrade, Don Rose, John Shannon, Richard Cribb, and Manuel Neronha.
Travisono praised the work of the St. Mark Women's Club whose members assisted with the reception that followed the ceremony. He also thanked the many parishioners who donated baked goods for the occasion.
The statue was restored by James Wermouth of the Conservation Technology Group based in Newport. Landscaping was by Yard Works, Inc. of Warwick.