The Guadalupe Project

Inspired by the Blessed Mother, Sr. Paula answers the call to create.


In August 2008 Sr. Paula and a prayer group from Mt. Carmel visited St. Mary’s University in Emmitsburg, Maryland. In a prayer garden there she noticed a beautiful mosaic of Our Lady of Guadalupe. Using an ordinary disposable camera, she photographed it.Sr. Paula had no reason to think that anything extraordinary had occurred until the photograph she had taken was developed. In the photo a luminescence — which neither Sr. Paula nor anyone else had seen with the naked eye — appeared over and around the image of Our Lady. Sister Paula showed the photograph and its negative to two professional film developers. They told her that the luminescence was part of the photograph; it had not been added to the negative afterward.

photo-guadalupe

 

Discerning the Vision

A series of subsequent and seemingly connected spiritual experiences led Sr. Paula, after much prayer and reflection, to discern that the luminescence in the photograph had been a sign that the Blessed Mother wanted her to promote devotion to Her under the title of Our Lady of Guadalupe, Patroness of the Americas and of the Unborn. This would be done by the creation of a prayer shrine in Philadelphia, birthplace of America, centered around an image of Our Lady of Guadalupe. She hoped that, ultimately, the prayer shrine would be replicated throughout North America.

Sister Paula did not initially know where in Philadelphia the prayer shrine should be. Then, as Sr. Paula recounted it, while walking on Pentecost Sunday in front a funeral home on Broad Street in South Philadelphia, Sr. Paula distinctly heard the Blessed Mother tell her that she was standing where the site would be.

Sister Paula happened to know the owner of the funeral home, and she knew that he was a parishioner of a local parish. She approached him and told him that the Blessed Mother wanted him to allow a prayer shrine to Our Lady of Guadalupe to be established permanently upon the property. To her delight, he immediately agreed.

Sister Paula originally thought that the image would be a mural on an outside wall of the funeral home. She later concluded that the image should be a full bronze sculpture. She then selected a master bronze sculptor, Steven Kilpatrick, and began to raise the needed funds — estimated at over $200,000.

The fundraising proceeded much more slowly than Sr. Paula had anticipated. In the remaining four years before she passed away, she had raised only a small fraction of the estimated cost — not even enough to enter into a formal commission agreement with Mr. Kilpatrick.

Hope for The Guadalupe Project

Sr. Paula’s friends, relatives, and members of the AASA would not let Sr. Paula’s passing ring the death knell for either the AASA itself or the project that the Blessed Mother had inspired Sr. Paula to begin. They resolved to raise money through the AASA to expedite completion of the sculpture, as Sr. Paula had hoped, before the World Meeting of Families, less than two years away. Soon they had raised enough money to enter into a commission agreement with Mr. Kilpatrick, who began to create the sculpture while the fundraising efforts continued.

A few months later, Mr. Kilpatrick’s efforts and those of the fundraisers were invigorated by word that Pope Francis had confirmed that he would, in fact, come to Philadelphia for the World Meeting of Families at the end of September 2015. They knew that His Holiness had a special devotion to Our Lady of Guadalupe, and they hoped that, when he was in Philadelphia, he would have occasion to pass by the location selected in South Philadelphia.

In early 2015, when the sculpture was nearly complete, the AASA received the unexpected and wonderful news that the Archdiocese would allow the completed sculpture to be placed temporarily in the Cathedral Basilica. It was unveiled on May 31, 2015, and blessed by Reverend Gerald Dennis Gill, Director of the Office of Divine Worship for the Archdiocese.

The sculpture remained in the Cathedral Basilica through the end of September, when His Holiness would preside there over several World Meeting of Family events. The sculpture, being present in the Cathedral Basilica, got the Pope’s attention on the morning of Saturday, September 26, as Father Gill would later explain:

The Holy Father wanted to honor the Blessed Mother before he vested for Mass on Saturday at the Cathedral. His assistants brought with them a bouquet of roses. After the Holy Father entered the Basilica, I was asked to direct him to a shrine of Our Lady and so I lead him to the statue of Our Lady of Guadalupe. He placed the flowers before the statue and we prayed for a few moments asking the help of our Blessed Mother. I especially remembered Sr. Mary Paula.

The moment was captured in a photograph:

That this happened on the morning of the last Saturday in September was either a glorious coincidence or the manifestation of exquisite grace — for Sr. Paula had passed away on the morning of the corresponding September Saturday two years earlier.

Continuing the Journey

Although the events of September 26, 2015, were certainly the culmination of years of prayer, planning, and effort, they were not a “mission accomplished.” For the Blessed Mother inspired Sr. Paula not merely to have a sculpture of Our Lady of Guadalupe sculpted, but to make it the centerpiece of a public prayer site in South Philadelphia. The AASA resolved to do everything necessary to fulfill that directive by completing the first OLG prayer site in Philadelphia.

Replication of the Sculpture

When Sr. Paula discussed the Guadalupe project with Steve Kilpatrick (the sculptor she selected) and with her sister Paula Luskus Beierschmitt, she explained to them that the project would begin in Philadelphia but that, in time, it would be replicated throughout North America. Groups interested in replicating the sculpture itself have already begun to raise funds for recastings of the sculpture. They have done that by working directly with Mr. Kilpatrick, who (as Sr. Paula insisted) retains the copyright for his work. If your group is interested in ordering a recasting of the sculpture, contact Mr. Kilpatrick through his website, www.kilpatrickstudio.com.

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“Art is a vehicle for expressing the infinite beauty of God.”

- Sr. Paula