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Six new statues of Jesuit saints bring beauty and meaning to St. Mary’s Hall.
More than a century after it was built, St. Mary’s Hall—home to the Boston College Jesuit community—has finally been completed. Last fall, six custom statues depicting Jesuit saints were installed in the building’s first-floor main hallway, placed in elaborately carved wooden alcoves designed by the architect Charles Donagh Maginnis in 1908. The six-foot-high niches, part of the building’s original construction, have remained empty for more than one hundred years. “The spaces were made for this,” said Fr. Cyril Opeil, SJ, superior of the BC Jesuit community. “It was time for them to be filled.”
Spaced out along the entirety of the hall, the statues sit atop custom-milled pedestals. New LED spotlights illuminate the intricate details of each carving—from the soft folds of Saint Ignatius of Loyola’s cape to the pointed leaves of the palm frond held by Saint Paul Miki of Japan.
Plans for the statues had been in the works for decades, but got serious during a major renovation of St. Mary's in 2013, said Tom Runyon, the senior construction manager at BC Capital Projects. Whenever administrators stopped by for updates on the project—which involved modernizing the Jesuit residences, converting the south wing for academic purposes, and restoring the building’s Gothic details—the empty niches would inevitably come up. “We’d walk down the hallway and say, ‘We should really do something with those,’” Runyon recalled.
What followed was a years-long partnership between Runyon, a group of BC Jesuits, and the renowned local sculptor Bob Shure, whose work includes the Boston Irish Famine Memorial in downtown Boston. The three parties exchanged feedback on sketches and clay models of each figure. Last fall, the final versions were cast in fiberglass resin and delivered to the Heights.
The newly installed pieces represent diverse aspects of the Society of Jesus’ work, as well as different time periods and locations, Fr. Opeil explained. In addition to their stories, the statues bring meaning and beauty to the hallway that he and the thirty-five other Jesuits who reside in St. Mary’s walk every day. After observing the empty niches for so many years, seeing them filled has brought joy during a difficult year. “They fit and fulfill this part of the house,” Fr. Opeil said. “These saints have done their work and now other Jesuits are laboring here to serve God for his greater glory.”
Here’s a closer look at the statues in St. Mary’s Hall, which is open to visitors during business hours.
Saint Ignatius of Loyola
Flanking the hall’s central entryway is Saint Ignatius, founder of the Society of Jesus. Clad in a cape, he holds open his ten-part composition, the Constitutions of the Society, which illustrate Ignatius’s extraordinary trust in God’s charismatic guidance and an awareness of the need for organization in religious life.
Saint Francis Xavier
A nobleman and a prolific missionary, Saint Francis Xavier holds a crucifix and a scalloped shell, a reference to the thousands of people he baptized in the first half of the 16th century, mostly in India
Saint Alberto Hurtado
Remembered for his service to the poor in his native Chile, Saint Alberto Hurtado is seen here with his hands outstretched. Canonized in 2005 by Pope Benedict XVI, he’s the most modern saint in
the statue gallery.
Saint Robert Bellarmine
As a Doctor of the Church and a cardinal, noted for his brilliance as a teacher and theologian, Saint Robert Bellarmine is shown carrying a book. He was a key figure in the Counter Reformation, a period of Catholic revival during the late 16th and early 17th centuries.
Saint Paul Miki
The first Jesuit to be martyred in Japan, in 1597, Saint Paul Miki is one of two non-European saints included in the Saint Mary’s Hall display. He’s depicted with a palm frond, representing the victory of spirit over flesh.
Saint Joseph Pignatelli
Less well known is Saint Joseph Pignatelli, a Spanish priest who is credited with re-founding the Society after its suppression in the late 18th century. He died in 1811—three years later, Pope Pius VII fully restored the Society of Jesus.