Bench with Franciscan Saints Dedicated on SBU Campus

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Francis Di Spigno blesses the newest sculpture on the St. Bonaventure University campus. (Photo courtesy of SBU)

The article below is based on information posted on the St. Bonaventure University website.

ALLEGANY, N.Y. — Students, staff members and anyone walking on the St. Bonaventure University campus have a new place to sit and to think about Franciscan history.

A cast bronze sculpture of Saints Francis and Clare of Assisi, accompanied by Clare’s cat and the Wolf of Gubbio, was dedicated last week during the annual Opening Mass of the Holy Spirit, held outside the McGinley-Carney Center for Franciscan Ministry.

The sculpture, located just off the sidewalk between Plassmann Hall and the McGinley-Carney Center, was created by Pittsburgh-based artist Ray Sokolowski, based on a drawing by Hannah Walker, class of 2014 and a former employee of the university’s Advancement Office.

The bench, which was erected this spring, was paid for by donations from former Board of Trustees chair Jack McGinley Jr. and current trustee Laurie Branch. Sokolowski’s wife, Kathy Rooney, is McGinley’s cousin. It is meant to be functional, allowing up to two people to sit between the saints.

Francis Di Spigno, OFM, executive director of University Ministries, who celebrated the Aug. 26 Mass, said the new statue “is a “wonderful addition to our campus environment. We not only  addressed the fact that the campus did not have a statue of St. Clare; I think we also created something that can speak to us today and specifically to the generations of students who come to St. Bonaventure to learn and to become a Bonnie.

“The planning committee had some great discussions taking the dream of having a statue of St. Clare on campus to creating something that speaks of the importance of the relationship between Francis and Clare,” he added. “The scene it depicts is a conversation between Francis, who has already made his choice to live as a mendicant, proclaiming the good news, dressed in the beggars garment, and Clare, a youthful woman from a wealthy family, seeking answers, wondering what she will do with her life.  Clare is dressed in her finery, with long, flowing hair, indicating that this is before March 28, 1211, that Palm Sunday night when she fled the comforts that her family could offer and the protection of the walled city, to become part of this new movement started by Francis.”

Students and other passers-by enjoy posing for photos on the bench that features St. Francis and St. Clare, Clare’s cat and the wolf of Gubbio. (Photo courtesy of SBU)

“My sculpture is meant to engage the students of St. Bonaventure in accordance with the spiritual mission of the university,” said Sokolowski. “The teachings of Saints Francis and Clare will bring to mind the importance of community with life and the environment.”

Sokolowski is a graduate of the Art Institute of Pittsburgh. He worked for 24 years at The Carnegie Museum of Art as installation specialist where he contributed to the presentation of fine art.

Among the participants at last month’s dedication ceremony were Sr. Margaret Carney,  OSF, president of SBU from 2004 until 2016, and Bob Van Wicklin, the university’s vice president for advancement..

Photos from the dedication can be found on SBU’s Flickr account.

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