By Elizabeth Van Pilsum, Staff Writer
If you have walked on campus at any point in the past couple of weeks, you probably noticed a new addition to Saint Vincent. As of Oct. 25, there is a larger-than-life statue of a young Saint Benedict perched on the fountain near Headmasters and Placid Halls. To commemorate this statue, the college held a dedication ceremony on Oct. 27.
The ceremony was held outside next to the fountain and was widely attended by students, faculty, monks, and alumni. Saint Vincent College President Fr. Paul Taylor, O.S.B., opened the ceremony by expressing gratitude to all who made the statue possible, including the anonymous donors who contributed to the statue and the class of 1968, who sponsored the fountain it sits on. Andrew Julo, Director of the Roman Verostko Center for the Arts, then spoke to introduce the audience to the artist.
The bronze statue was crafted by world-renowned artist Chas Fagan, a Yale alumnus who was born in Ligonier, Pa. Fagan’s art has been displayed in the U.S. Capitol, the White House, Washington National Cathedral, and Saint Peter’s Basilica, and he is known for combining his knowledge of history with his artistic abilities.
“As a Catholic community firmly rooted in the heritage of Benedictine monasticism, Mr. Fagan’s excellent work reminds us that we, like Benedict, are called to be visionary, open, and honest, honoring the traditions we’ve inherited from previous generations while continuing to always look forward,” Julo said.
Following Julo’s introduction, Fagan gave a speech describing how the statue came to be. Rev. Douglas Nowicki, Archabbot Emeritus, who initiated the project, specifically told Fagan he wanted to deviate from the tradition of portraying St. Benedict as an old man with a long beard and instead show him as young and energetic, in order for the statue to better resonate with the students. Rev. Douglas also wanted the statue to embody the Benedictine motto, “ora et labora,” which means “pray and work.”
“Regardless of whom I sculpt or paint, I really need to find out who they are, what makes them tick, what they think about, what their mindset is,” Fagan said, explaining his creative process. “With St. Benedict, all I had to do was look at the black-and-white words that he penned himself, and so I opened up the Rule of St. Benedict.”
From the Rule, Fagan took three specific quotations to direct his sculpture. The first quote was, “Run while you have the light of light.” The second was, “We will never arrive unless we run there by doing good deeds.” Finally, Fagan was also inspired by the quote, “The Lord waits for us daily to translate his teachings into action.”
On that foundation, Fagan knew he needed to portray Benedict as a man in motion. The statue is striding forward over a rocky terrain covered in thorns, with the thorns referring to the story of Benedict rolling in thorns to overcome temptation to sin. He is holding his Rule of St. Benedict, as well as a shepherd’s staff, representing the guidance and protection he provided to his monks and the greater community. His eyes are set on the horizon, looking towards the future, and there is wind circling him that ties into the circular design of the fountain.
The ceremony closed with a prayer and a blessing of the statue by Archabbot Martin de Porres Bartel, O.S.B., followed by a reception in the Dale P. Latimer Library where anyone could talk to Fagan more. Additionally, digital images of Fagan’s process sculpting the statue were on display, including original sketches, pictures of the first 24-inch-tall clay model, and photos of the final project.
“Here on this campus, the legacy of Saint Benedict is all around us,” Fagan said. “He’s now standing in the middle of his community today [...] personally encouraging the next generations for the future, guiding them toward a Christ-inspired life of selflessness, a life of learning, and a life of work, all of which offer the greatest rewards and joy.”