By Susan Brinkmann, OCDS
After a prominent statue of the Blessed Virgin Mary was desecrated at Georgetown University (GU), students offended by the action embarked on a 24-hour prayer vigil beginning yesterday in reparation for the outrage and in support of the university’s Catholic identity.
According to a press release by the Cardinal Newman Society, the face of the stone statue of Our Lady of Fatima, which sits on high-profile Copley Lawn, was painted black.
On Sunday, Georgetown stated in an e-mail, “we do not know the motivation of the person or persons who painted the face, nor whether they are members of the University community.” The statue has since been partially restored.
In response to the desecration, student members of the Catholic Daughters of the Americas, the Knights of Columbus, and the Catholic Student Association at Georgetown launched a 24-hour prayer vigil on Feb. 26.
“The motivation for organizing a prayer vigil in front of Our Lady of Fatima is a desire to bring good out of evil,” said Junior Joseph Kapusnick, Grand Knight of GU Knights of Columbus. “We want to remind everyone of the strong Catholic identity on campus with a true Catholic response: prayer and forgiveness.”
Andrea Pittaluga, Co-Chair of Georgetown’s Interfaith Council, said, “Desecrating the statue of the Blessed Mother was done either out of ignorance or malice. Either way, however, grace can come from even the lowest of deeds: this is a wonderful opportunity to teach students about the Blessed Mother, about her love, and how to form a relationship with her.”
“Georgetown’s Jesuit-Catholic identity in many ways depends on a small number of students, faculty, and administrators who are willing to fight for and advocate its heritage,” said Junior David Gregory, Editor-In-Chief of The Georgetown Academy. “Though many are willing to support the school’s identity, not too many are ready and willing to step up to bat when necessary.”
A campus-wide e-mail from the Executive Director of Campus Ministry and the vice presidents for Student Affairs and Mission and Ministry was issued on February 22, alerting the Georgetown community of the circumstances of the desecration. The notice stated that when the statue is restored, the Roman Catholic Chaplaincy of Campus Ministry will rededicate it in a public ritual.
“Nearly one year ago Pope Benedict came to Washington and declared that the crisis of Truth on our Catholic campuses is rooted in a crisis of faith,” noted Thomas Mead, executive vice president at The Cardinal Newman Society, an organization dedicated to protecting the Catholic identity of the nation’s Catholic colleges and universities.
“The Georgetown students’ response to the terrible desecration is just one more example of the budding renewal of Catholic higher education that is taking place. We should pray that the administration at Georgetown takes to heart the words of the Holy Father and the example of Georgetown’s own students.”
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