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Help Save Our Lady: Lourdes Establishes Fund to Support Repair of Beloved Statue

Historical statue is brought down today for major repairs

The statue of Our Lady of Lourdes, a South Jersey landmark that has stood high atop Our Lady of Lourdes Medical Center since 1949, was safely taken down today to repair damage from this summer’s earthquake.

The Aug. 23 earthquake caused sections of the 30-foot, 15-ton statue to shift several inches, causing chipping and a number of vertical cracks. This presented a major safety concern for the medical center and crews worked tirelessly to secure the statue and ensure the safety of patients, staff and visitors.

For several months, the statue has been secured with scaffolding as the engineering team determined the best way to approach the task. Today, the statue’s top three sections were removed and brought down for repairs and conservation. Crews began disassembling the statue Wednesday and finished late today.

The work to be done on the Our Lady of Lourdes statue is extensive and includes everything from carving and installing new limestone using stainless steel dowels and epoxy to drilling interior holes to install additional tensioning bars and anchors for additional structural support. The sections remaining on the building also will be improved.

While the hospital is covered by insurance, the costs to repair this historical statue far exceed what is covered. To help with these out-of-pocket expenses, Lourdes Health Foundation has established the Our Lady Fund for those who would like to donate to help save Our Lady of Lourdes.

“We are asking the community to contribute to the preservation of this iconic area landmark. She is an important part of our community and the symbol of hope and light to many throughout the region. This repair will allow us to enjoy her for many more years to come,” said Ruth Cila, Executive Director of the Lourdes Health Foundation.

Made of Indiana limestone, the statue stands 185 feet above street level and is illuminated by flood lights at her base. Above her head, a 3-foot, 1,000 pound halo lit by amber neon lights served as a beacon for passing aircrafts for decades, flashing on and off from dusk to dawn. It also is lit for special occasions, such as for Breast Cancer Awareness Month in October. Assembled in six sections, she is one of the largest such statues in the country.

During its early construction, a cable holding the top of the head snapped. A beam went flying across the tower and the head teetered on the parapet -at risk of falling seven stories and smashing to the ground. As a result, the hospital’s first administrator, Sister Mary Paracleta, wrote a note and placed it inside the head asking Our Lady of Lourdes to protect the city and its residents. The note was sewn into X-ray film to protect it. Bishop Eustace also placed a small relic of St. Francis inside the head.

Lourdes associates and residents across the region have been deeply saddened to see Our Lady of Lourdes in her present condition, and although disappointed by her temporary departure, they look forward to her eventual return to the top of the medical center.

“The statue has been with us for so many years, it is very sad to see her go today,” said Sister Helen Owens, OSF, Vice President of Mission for Lourdes Health System. “Although she will not be physically present, the Blessed Mother remains with us.”

To help save the adored Our Lady of Lourdes statue, please make a donation via online at:  http://www.lourdesnet.org; via mail to: Lourdes Health Foundation – Our Lady Campaign, 1600 Haddon Avenue, Camden, NJ 08103; or via text by texting LHF to 27722 to give $10.

For more information, please contact Lauren Ward via e-mail at WardL@lourdesnet.org or via cell phone at (609) 206-5787.

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