For The Catholic Messenger
CLINTON — In 2005 when the college at 400 N. Bluff Boulevard was no longer a Catholic institution, all statues but one were removed. Until the end of last year, the statue of the woman for whom Mount St. Clare College was named remained high above Bluff Boulevard where it had been since the five-story building was finished in 1911.
The reason for not removing it sooner is uncertain. Perhaps the statue was considered out of sight and out of mind or too heavy and too high up to remove. But as the closing of Ashford University drew near, it was decided that the nearly 6-foot-tall metal statue should be returned to the Sisters of St. Francis at their home, The Canticle, also in Clinton.
“We wanted to make sure what belonged to the sisters was returned to them,” said Charlie Minnick, the university’s vice-president and campus director, who was present when the statue was returned May 31.
The white statue depicts the Italian noblewoman born in 1104 who, upon hearing St. Francis of Assisi preach, was converted to religious life. Because a woman could not live in the monastery with St. Francis and his brethren, she began her own monastery with assistance from St. Francis. Furthermore, St. Clare of Assisi was the first woman to write a set of rules for her order and receive approval from the pope. The order, the Poor Clares, still exists today.
“I want to thank Ashford University for supporting this project. We tried to refurbish Lady Clare to the best of our ability. It’s been a fun project, especially during our final year,” Waunita Sullivan, campus associate director of student affairs, said as she addressed more than 20 sisters present for the return of the statue. “I thought it was appropriate that with this being my last day we were able to deliver Lady Clare to you because you have meant the world to me.” She added, “It was the perfect ending and an honor to do it.”
Devin Housenga and Harry Krahn of Ashford University’s maintenance department delivered the statue to The Canticle after undertaking the process to clean it. Once it was cleaned, Anna Pegnucci, an art professor, and her class applied several coats
“We replaced the monstrance (held in Lady Clare’s hand),” said Larry Libberton, director of communications. “The one that had been there was not in very good shape.” Libberton also spoke to the sisters saying, “I ask for your continued prayers for so many of us as we transition to a new phase of our lives.”
Sister Anne Martin Phelan, OSF, president of the Clinton Franciscans, said the statue will remain at the entrance until a decision about a permanent home is made. “Like Waunita said, this is a perfect thing to do, a perfect transition. We are so grateful to all those who helped to restore the statue for us,” Sr. Phelan said. Sister Hilary Mullany, OSF, read a poem written by Sister Martinelle Bonnell, OSF. The event concluded with the Prayer of St. Clare of Assisi and the Blessing of Clare.