by Marie Elena Giossi
Despite cold temperatures, warm smiles surrounded Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio as he blessed an outdoor statue of Mary, Mother of God at St. Margaret Church, Middle Village, following 5 p.m. Mass on Saturday, Jan. 26.
Located on the Juniper Valley Rd. side of the church, the five-foot six-inch statue, carved in first-grade white Carrara marble with a chiseled finish, depicts the Blessed Mother embracing the Baby Jesus, who rests His hand upon His Mother’s heart and His head gently upon her cheek.
In blessing the statue, Bishop DiMarzio complimented the “two beautiful faces” and reminded those gathered to always look to the Blessed Mother “as a model of holiness.”
“We are blessed to have our bishop to inaugurate this statue, and we’re blessed to have this statue here,” Msgr. Steven J. Aguggia, pastor, announced to the congregation during Mass.
“You see already how beautiful it looks,” he said. “Everyone who passes the church will see our devotion to the Blessed Mother.”
Msgr. Aguggia thanked Mike Repole and the Repole family foundation, Nonna’s Garden, for donating the statue. He also recognized the woman for whom the foundation is named, Assunta Guarnaccia, 87, a longtime parishioner at St. Margaret’s, who was sitting in the front pew.
“Nonna’s Garden is about family, friends, faith and giving back,” said Repole, who explained that the foundation supports the Catholic Church, education and poor and sick children.
“My grandmother nurtures her garden the way she nurtures her family – with tons of care and love,” added Repole, a successful business owner and entrepreneur who started the foundation seven years ago.
He says his grandmother, or nonna in Italian, is his “inspiration and mentor.” Widowed at 37, she raised three children in a poor Italian town “with faith, love and trust in God.” She continues to instill those values in her five grandchildren and seven great-grandchildren.
The newly installed icon was inspired by an image of the Blessed Mother under the title Sedes Sapientiae, or Seat of Wisdom, which Guarnaccia selected. The family commissioned an Italian sculptor to create four statues in the image’s likeness.
Repole said donating the statue is his way of giving back, in his grandmother’s honor, to the religious institutions that nurtured and molded him. Now a parishioner at St. Edward the Confessor, Syosset, L.I., he was raised in Middle Village and is an alumnus of St. Margaret’s School; Holy Cross H.S., Flushing; and St. John’s University, Jamaica.
Just before Christmas, the statues were given to all three of his alma maters. Holy Cross and St. John’s are planning dedication ceremonies in the spring. The fourth statue has already been installed at the family’s summer parish in Rhode Island.
“I hope the statue is inspiring for the Middle Village community,” said Repole, who hopes residents will make use of this peaceful place for prayer.