“Mary Aikenhead, like Mary, the mother of Jesus, was a woman of choice not chance. A young woman who listened for what God was calling her to be and who responded in a way that made a huge difference in the world of others.“ These descriptors of Mary Aikenhead were among other characteristics about which April Honeyman, Principal of St Columba’s College Essendon spoke at the unveiling of the statue of Mary Aikenhead on November 21st 2016.
The unveiling ceremony was the precursor to the blessing which will take place next year as the 120th Anniversary of the College is celebrated.
This ceremony was one of the final acts of April as principal as, due to ill health, she has resigned as College principal from the end of this academic year.
April’s love for Venerable Mary Aikenhead and for the Sisters of Charity Congregations, centered in Ireland and in Australia, is well known to all those who have met her.
The artist commissioned for this work is Jenny Steiner. Jenny has captured who Mary Aikenhead is, and, who she can be for all those within the St Columba’s College community: a woman whose advocacy improved “ the life of the poor; a woman who walked with the oppressed, touched the outcasts, embraced the forgotten and healed the sick.” (April’s words)
Situated within the College grounds, the statue is life sized and in the traditional dress of the Sisters of Charity of her time. Through this statue which leans forward, students and staff walking through the College grounds are invited “into conversation ..to sit awhile, either alone or with a friend.”
April asked Jenny to depict Mary Aikenhead at an earlier time of her religious life. Her face is younger than that to which we have become accustomed. The crucifix, rosary beads and medal, her ring and the quill in her hand are authentic replicas. Her veil catches water. It was symbolic that at the end of the unveiling ceremony those gathered, silently and without prompting, moved forward to bless each other or to prayerfully bless themselves.
It was a privilege for me to be present and once again to catch the spirit engendered in our Congregations by our Foundress, Venerable Mary Aikenhead: Caritas Christi urget nos.”
Elizabeth Dodds RSC, Australian Contact Sister for the Cause of Mary Aikenhead. December 2016.