Gift of Faith: Unveiling 'Mary and the Students' Statue

University Communications & Marketing | 02/08/2024

A Generous Gift of Faith

Saint Francis University in Loretto, PA, boasts a significant new statue adorning the grounds.  Entitled "Mary and the Students," the statue was unveiled in front of the Immaculate Conception Chapel in February of the spring 2024 semester.  The piece will serve as an inspiration piece to all community members.     

photo of Virgin Mary statue
The 'Mary and the Students' statue, generously donated by alumnus Lou DiCerbo '59 and family, symbolizing faith and unity on campus.   

Far more than a mere piece of art, the 'Mary and the Students' statue embodies a profound journey inspired by graduate and donor Lou DiCerbo's deep-rooted faith. The University is grateful for the generosity of devoted alumnus Lou DiCerbo, CLU, ChFC, of Manhasset, New York, a graduate of the Class of 1959, Distinguished Alumnus 1997, his wife, Pat (honorary alumna), and his family, who made the installation possible through their heartfelt donation.

His generous contribution to the University was strongly influenced by a smaller statue known as "Our Lady, Mother of the Church," and “Blessed Mother with the Children of the World.” This smaller statue played a pivotal role in Lou's marriage, which unfolded at the Church of St. Francis of Assisi in mid-town Manhattan. Regular visits to the parish allowed Lou to find solace in prayer before the statue of the Blessed Mother, seeking blessings for his family and children. 

The statue's concept extends from Mary's universal role as the Mother of all believers. Depicting Mary as the mother of the students and the University, the statue is rooted in the theological tradition of the Immaculate Conception. It symbolizes God's preparation of Mary as the Mother of Jesus, with Jesus on the cross, entrusting Mary to John the Apostle, establishing them as mother and son. This act extends to all believers through baptism, transforming them into sons and daughters of the Father and siblings of Jesus, empowered by the Holy Spirit. 

The installation of the statue on campus stands as a unique expression of faith and familial legacy. The DiCerbos’ hope was to share a personal devotion that transcends into a deeper understanding and love for Mary, ultimately leading to a more profound faith in her son, Jesus. Following "Francis of Assisi" (outside the Welcome Center), the ‘Mary and the Students’ statue is the second commissioned art piece at the University completed by the artists. 

Watch the Installation

Installed with meticulous care and reverence, the 'Mary and the Students' statue now graces the grounds of Saint Francis University, a testament to the profound faith and dedication of its benefactor. Click to view the video and witness the careful installation on Thursday, February 1, 2024.

About the Artists

Crafted by artists Anna Koh Varilla and Jeffrey H. Varilla, the statue draws inspiration from similar representations they have crafted.  The husband and wife sculptor team has been working on original works for over twenty-five years.  They believe that an important role of art is to communicate with the public.  They are Fellows at the National Sculpture Society.