Portage Mary Garden Statue

Honoring 'Mary, Model of the Church'

In August of 1996, members of St. Catherine of Siena Parish, Portage, celebrated the dedication of a unique statue of "Mary, Model of the Church", as the centerpiece of the parish's Mary Garden.

statue of Mary

The Mary Garden, planted on the south side of the church building in 1963, is a devotional area where the statue of Mary is surrounded by plants that bear her name in some way. The garden's purpose is to promote prayerful reflection on the ways of God, especially his plans for bringing about our salvation.

The parish's Spiritual Development Commission coordinated the planning and preparation of the garden and commissioned artist Jerry Westgerdes to create the statue. Jerry is a former Nazareth College art instructor who now teaches at Ohio University. He has created statues for Hackett High School in Kalamazoo, Sacred Heart Parish in Bangor, and for the recent renovation of the Holy Family Chapel at Nazareth.

Pastor Fr. Tom Stanley and a committee of St. Catherine parishioners worked with Jerry, discussing ideas to be represented in the statue and selecting the final design. The statue was initially sculpted in clay by Jerry, and then cast in bronze at Alchemist-Tye Studio, Inc., in Kalamazoo.

"Mary, Model of the Church" depicts Mary pregnant, surrounded by flowers and standing with her foot crushing a dragon. This representation of Mary is based upon two passages of Scripture: Genesis 3:15 (often called the protoevangelium, that is, the original announcement of God's "good news" -- the ultimate and full disclosure of this "good news" being Jesus, the Word of God), and Chapter 12 of the Book of Revelation, which takes up and expands upon the Genesis passage.

The original "good news" was God's statement to the Tempter: "I will put enmity between you and the woman, between her seed and your seed; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel." The woman referred to is Eve, but also, by extension, Mary, the mother of this victorious seed, as well as the Church, which Mary typifies.

Chapter 12 of the Book of Revelation expands upon the initial "good news" passage. In it a woman appears. She is to be understood primarily as the Church, and secondarily as Mary. This woman is "with child" and "in anguish for delivery" (as depicted in our statue). The child to be born is the Mystic Christ, the People of God. Confronting the woman is "a great red dragon" (also in our statue). The dragon is identified as "the ancient sea monster (Satan), the deceiver of the whole world." The dragon seeks to devour the child about to be delivered. The woman flees for safety into a protective haven of nature pursued by the dragon. The home territory of this beast is the bottom of the sea. To sweep the woman into it, he pours "water like a river out of his mouth." However, the earth opens its mouth and swallows the river saving the woman and thwarting the dragon. Our statue represents this saving action of nature by the flowers growing up around Mary and protectively enveloping her.

church exterior

Founded less than a year after the closing of Vatican II, St. Catherine of Siena parish took as its specific mission the translation of the Council's decrees and dreams into everyday life situations. In keeping with this, our statue represents the Council's presentation of Mary to the world as a type or model of the Church.

Reprint of Announcement, with permission of Saint Catherine of Siena Church


The John Stokes and Mary's Garden collection was transferred to the Marian Library in May 2013. In addition to his archives, manuscripts, artwork, and personal library, John S. Stokes also donated his extensive website. It was transferred to the Marian Library in 2010. This particular entry is archived content original to Stokes' Mary's Gardens website. It is possible that some text, hyperlinks, etc. are outdated.

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