DeLaSalle High School aims to inspire hope with new Virgin Mary statue modeled after diverse students

A new multicultural statue stands in the Baldwin Family Prayer Grotto at DeLaSalle High School. The statue is modeled after DeLaSalle students and was unveiled at a dedication Friday. (Samantha HoangLong / FOX 9)

A new symbol of hope and unity stands at one Minneapolis school.

DeLaSalle High School unveiled its new multicultural statue of the Blessed Virgin Mary modeled after its diverse students in front of about 50 community members Friday morning at the Baldwin Family Prayer Grotto.


DeLaSalle High School senior and statue model Leila Ambrus (far right) and statue model Elijah Blaylark's parents pose for a picture with Pat and Sandy Baldwin, longtime supporters of the school. (Samantha HoangLong/Fox 9) (FOX 9)

“Mary has been a great intercessor to bring unity to our world, to break down walls, and to bring us all together,” Father Kevin Kenney stated during the blessing for the statue and grotto.

Four DeLaSalle students modeled for the statue that reflects the diversity of its student body. Senior Leila Ambrus modeled the face of Mary, whose outstretched arms embrace three other students modeled by senior Elijah Blaylark, recent graduates JunFen Freihammer and Mathias Goddard. The models are white, Black and Chinese American.

“It felt like a really significant moment in DeLaSalle history, but also Minneapolis history with everything going on, that we have this symbol of unity and strength in our community,” Ambrus said. “I felt really honored that I will always be a part of it and I will always have a place at DeLaSalle.”


Pat and Sandy Baldwin take a first look at a replica of the Virgin Mary statue. The school presented the replica to the couple at Friday's dedication. (Samantha HoangLong/Fox 9)

Creating the statue

Ambrus applied when DeLaSalle staff made a call out for students who wanted to participate in the project last school year.

“I thought it would be cool to one day come back with my kids and have a statue of myself here, and also just to be a part of this bigger message that the statue brings,” Ambrus said.

Ambrus and other students helped in the early phases of creating the statue with DeLaSalle Christian Brother Jerome Cox. Sculptor Glenn Terry of East Bethel completed the project.


Father Kevin Kenney blesses the new statue and prayer grotto at Friday's dedication. (Samantha HoangLong/Fox 9)

Ambrus said the student models visited a studio in northern Minnesota last fall and got 3D impressions of their faces and bodies. They also toured the facility that created the mold for the statue. Once they had the mold, Ambrus said she helped lay the clay on.

“It was super detailed and super surprising to see,” Ambrus said. “I didn’t really understand how many people went into the process and how much outside work was being done.”


Sandy Baldwin gives her thanks to the DeLaSalle community while holding a replica of the Virgin Mary statue. Her and her husband, Pat, were honored at the dedication. (Samantha HoangLong/Fox 9)

Honoring longtime supporters

The Virgin Mary statue was placed in the newly completed Baldwin Family Prayer Grotto near Founder’s Park on Nicollet Island.

The grotto was named after longtime supporters, Class of 1953 alumnus Pat Balwin, his wife Sandy and their children. The school honored the family and presented a replica of the statue to them at the dedication Friday.

“Pat and Sandy have been incredibly generous to DeLaSalle over the years,” said Bryan Bass, president of DeLaSalle High School. “They’re not about being recognized and having their names on buildings, but they are committed to service, as a part of our Catholic and DeSalian mission.”


DeLaSalle High School senior Leila Ambrus, gives flowers to members of the Baldwin family during the dedication. Ambrus modeled the face of Blessed Virgin Mary on the statue. (Samantha HoangLong/Fox 9)

The grotto will serve as a new space for quiet reflection and prayer.

“I hope that (students) find it a peaceful place to find time to meditate and collect their thoughts, to be reminded of God’s love for us,” Bass said. “I hope it’s inspirational, and it’s a beacon of hope and symbolism of our solidarity and our togetherness.”

DeLaSalle students begin the school year on Monday with a hybrid model.