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The Mystery of the Mary Statue

Everyone who has been to Malvern knows where the Mary Statue is, but few on campus knew much about its origins – until now.

MARY

The Mary statue atop the hill when first arriving on Malvern’s campus has an interesting but secretive past. Little was known about the statue until very recently.

The statue has few markings – no plaque to mark its donors, no inscriptions of date or memorial. At the start of our reporting, no one on campus seemed to know when it had originally been built or who donated the statue.

Stewardship Officer Mr. Chuck Chinici had originally had a few theories – mostly due to not finding photos of the statue before 1962 or 1963. After Chinici reached out to alumni, a few disproved this theory when they claimed that it had been around since the mid-1950s.

After a week of searching and contacting almost anyone who had a connection to Malvern in the 1950s-1960s, Chinici found a golden ticket: a short snippet in the 1995 yearbook that indicated the statue was donated to Malvern in 1959. But donated by whom?

Clipping from 1995 Malvernian - in the math faculty section
Clipping from 1995 Malvernian – in the math faculty section

 

President Fr. James Flynn O.S.A. continued the research, and shared that the statue was donated by the Walsh family.

In May 1959, Daniel J. Walsh, a member of Malvern Prep’s first graduating class of 1926 passed away. Mr. Walsh was the father of three sons who attended Malvern, and one daughter. Malvern faculty members Fr. Frank Gilligan, O.S.A. and Fr. Bill Carney, O.S.A. (think Carney Hall), both friends of the Walsh family, approached the Walsh family regarding the possibility of a family gift to the school in memory of their departed husband and father.

They decided on a statue of Our Lady which was erected on the hill and dedicated in the Fall of 1959.

Clipping from 1926 yerabook - 'The Augustinian'
Clipping from 1926 yerabook – ‘The Augustinian’

 

Current senior, Oliver Walsh, is a descendant of Daniel J. Walsh to whose memory the statue was donated.

“It’s obviously pretty cool,” Walsh said. “It’s a little more distant than anything to me, but in general it’s cool to be associated with that.”

Chinici solved part of the mystery, but there is still more to the mystery of the statue. The clipping referred to the statue as the “Lady on the Hill.” Mary statues often reflect different depictions of Mary throughout time and in different places, such as Our Lady of Guadalupe. Each version has a different statue with key structures.

Malvern’s Mary statue does not reflect any of the statues known, however. Her arms are simply stretched out, inviting people onto Malvern’s campus. Fr. Flynn discovered this when searching about the statue.

Fr. Flynn noted the impact the statue has on parents and alumni. “Current parents have told me they feel Mary is the protector of their son while he is here on the campus,” he said.

No matter which version of Mary the statue depicts, or why the donator and date of donation was so hard to find, the Mary statue is that it comforts anyone who sees it. This may be why the Walsh family donated the statue in memory of a beloved family member.

The Lady on the Hall, 2017 / T. Pero
The Lady on the Hall, 2017 / T. Pero

About Steve O'Meara

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