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Catherine McAuley statue alive with heart of mercy, inviting people to reflect and encounter

Artist’s joy: Sculptor Peter Wegner at the blessing of the McAuley statue at Australian Catholic University McAuley campus. Photo: Joe Higgins

VENERABLE Catherine McAuley, a woman who nurtured poor Irish Catholics in Dublin, has found her way to Banyo, sitting on a plinth with a child under the spire of the Australian Catholic University Holy Spirit Chapel.

Brisbane Archbishop Mark Coleridge led a liturgy and blessing of a statue of Sister Catherine at McAuley Campus on August 1. 

About 100 people attended the liturgy, including Mercy Sisters, Josephite Sisters, clergy and seminarians as well as ACU and Catholic education dignitaries.

Mercy Sisters Brisbane congregation leader Sr Catherine Reuter said the statue was beautiful.

Living the story of mercy

She said in many ways it was an expression of thanks and a way of preserving the story of mercy, a story she said was “bigger than I am, bigger than we are”.

But she said it was also an invitation.

“It’s an invitation to remember and to in some way continue to inculcate Catherine’s gift of mercy,” she said.

“The statue itself is just so engaging and so reflective of relationships, of care and compassion.”

“We are very grateful as ever to ACU for the way that they continue to engage the sisters in what are the life and celebrations of what happens on the campus.”

Merciful love: Venerable Catherine McAuley exalted in bronze.

Sr Reuter said it was also an invitation for students and visitors walking past the statue to learn about who Sr Catherine was.

But it was also an invitation to learn about the charism of mercy and the role of mercy in their lives, she said.

Bringing bronze to life

Sculptor Peter Wegner, who won the 2006 Doug Moran National Portrait Prize, said he had hoped to reflect Sr Catherine’s kindness, empathy and compassion towards the poor and disadvantaged.

“She draws the child closer in a comforting and gentle embrace and instills a sense of trust which is exchanged and shared,” he said.

“The two figures are united in the bond that carries a sense of hope for the destitute and the needy, while depicting Sister Catherine as a protector and social reformer.”

Archbishop Coleridge said in his remarks that the statue pointed beyond itself.

“If it didn’t, it would be idolatry,” he said.

He said we bless the statue because it pointed to God. The Archbishop said it also pointed to a woman who lived in turbulent times of Catholic emancipation in Dublin.

He said in some ways God incarnated in Catherine and her works of mercy.

“Somehow in this woman, God walked the streets of Dublin and far beyond.”

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