Colleen Caulfield stands with Divine Word Father Martin Padovani in front of the statue dedicated to his ministry after the dedication ceremony Nov. 19.
Colleen Caulfield stands with Divine Word Father Martin Padovani in front of the statue dedicated to his ministry after the dedication ceremony Nov. 19.

When Colleen Caulfield assumed custody of a large outdoor statue of the Blessed Virgin after her parents sold their property in 2010, she wanted to assure it found a good spiritual home.

Now a fixture on the grounds of St. Rose Grammar School, Belmar, the reinstalled statue named Our Lady of Hope is dedicated to Divine Word Father Martin Padovani and in memory of Caulfield’s parents, Dr. James and Regina Caulfield, who died in 2016 and 2017.

The statue was officially dedicated during a Nov. 19 ceremony including Father Padovani and Msgr. Edward J. Arnister, pastor of St. Rose Parish, with several representatives of the parish and school community.

“[I’m grateful for] the opportunity to recognize Father Padovani for his three decades of service to the Jersey Shore families and over 60 years of priesthood,” said Caulfield, “and to provide children of St. Rose School and parishioners of St. Rose Parish a quiet place to reflect and pray to Mary … My parents would be so thrilled to know it’s at a Catholic school.”

MARY’S TRAVELS

The nearly life-size likeness of Mary began as part of James and Regina’s garden at their home in Spring Lake, where they were parishioners of St. Catharine-St. Margaret Parish. While the statue was in Caulfield’s possession in 2011, she sought counseling for a challenging family situation, and her father put her in touch with Father Padovani, who served as a counselor in the Diocese of Trenton for more than five decades, and who was also a weekend assistant for 30 years in St. Catharine-St. Margaret Parish. The family connection grew, and Colleen found in Father Padovani a trusted ear with genuine understanding.

“I’ve counseled anyone and everyone,” Father Padovani said of his ministry. “I’m 90 years old and I’ve been in counseling for over 55 years – it’s a grace from God.”

“I felt it was important to have a form of recognition for him – his ministry is so unique, being both a priest and counselor,” Caulfield explained. She decided the statue should be installed at Father Padovani’s residence at the Divine Word Missionaries facility in Bordentown.

When the Bordentown property was sold in 2020, and Father Padovani relocated to the Poor Clare Estate nearby, the statue needed a new residence once again. It also needed some cosmetic and structural work, so Caulfield sought the expertise of local mason, Dave Raczkiewicz, while she researched a new home. He painstakingly restored the statue over six months to like-new status, and crafted a pedestal topped with granite for its installation, bringing the statue and base to more than six feet tall.

“It’s beyond words how it turned out,” Caulfield attested. “I’m still a little blown away by it.”

As a religious education catechist for St. Rose Parish, Caulfield had a ready connection with Mercy Sister Donna D’Alia, parish religious education director. Sister Donna, along with Msgr. Arnister and Gregory Guito, school principal, helped decide where the statue could best be seen and appreciated.

“We said we would love to have it in our play area,” said Guito. “It’s a tiny park with tables, flowers and shrubs adjacent to the school… a perfect place for reflection and prayer.”

Caulfield remarked, “My father spent over 50 years in schools and was superintendent in Union Township; he was very devout and Jesuit-educated. Some things in life just come together, and this is one of them.”

GRACEFUL PRESENCE

Having counseled people across the tri-state area and even beyond, making use of phone counseling even before the pandemic, Father Padovani has seen a common thread of hopelessness that he feels the statue’s presence could help ease.

“It’s a real opportunity to get Mary back in the picture; I feel like her son is saying [to us], ‘you have forgotten my mother,’” he said.

It was Father Padovani who wished for the statue to be known as Our Lady of Hope. “Fear is [and] anxiety over what is going to happen is overwhelming,” he continued. “This is a way to help bring people back [to the faith]; I hope they can see that in Mary we can find hope and healing.”

The statue’s visibility adds to its appeal and message, Msgr. Arnister believes. “The presence of the statue will remind students of their heavenly Mother, to know she is with them and bringing their prayers to her son Jesus. Her greatest desire is that we live as Jesus taught us to live.”

The Our Lady of Hope statue is already making an impression, as witnessed by Guito. “Just last week I saw a little boy stop, bless himself and begin to pray by the statue,” he recalled. “We hope teachers will be able to use the statue to help teach during some of their religion classes, and we hope to [use it for] a May crowning.”

Father Padovani is grateful “for Mary and Jesus and all the help they’ve given me. It’s a great honor for me – I’m overwhelmed people have recognized [my ministry]. But it’s really the power of God that works through all of that… I just hope the Lord gives me more time, because I still have a lot of work to do.”