This weekend we welcome two new statues into our St. Austin community of saints. Inspired by the work of the group Women of Faith Unbound, St. Mary of Magdala and St. Phoebe were both sculpted by Phoenix-based artist Mark Carroll, then were finished, stained, and hung in place by parishioner Mark Landers. You will notice that the style of the new statues closely resembles that of the existing figures of Sts. Peter and Paul. This was deliberate. These new sculptures of female saints were designed to appear as if they have always been part of our worship space.
St. Mary of Magdala is positioned on the left side of the sanctuary as you face the altar from the pews, just past the final station of the cross. Turned towards the Crucifix, she holds a vessel in her right hand while gesturing with her left hand towards Jesus. This location symbolizes the significant role that Mary of Magdala played after Jesus’s Resurrection. On the Sunday following the Crucifixion, Mary returned to His tomb to anoint His body with spices, as was the Jewish custom, but found the stone rolled away and His body gone. The risen Christ then appeared to her, instructing her to go and tell the other disciples. For being the first witness to the Resurrection of Jesus and for bringing the news to Peter and the other disciples, Mary of Magdala is called “The Apostle to the Apostles.” This statue of her represents the period during which she alone carried the Good News.
St. Phoebe is located on the right side of the sanctuary, on the same side as the statue of St. Paul. She faces the congregation with her right hand raised, while in her left hand she holds a scroll. Phoebe carries special significance for the Paulist Fathers since she worked closely with Paul to spread the word about Jesus. As part of her ministry she journeyed from Jerusalem to bring the Romans a letter from Paul, which introduced her as “our sister Phoebe, diakonos of the church in Cenchreae.” While translated as “minister” in the USCCB-approved version of the bible, diakonos is the Greek word for deacon. The statue of Phoebe is thus appropriately situated near the Deacon’s Door.
Both of these statues signify women whose faith nurtured and sustained the early church. We wanted the statues to look as if they have always been part of our worship space because these women have always been part of our faith history. We celebrate their presence now.
Welcome, St. Mary of Magdala and St. Phoebe!