Marian Exhibit brings joy to Our Lady of Loretto Parish

By Mary Powers

For the second year in a row, Our Lady of Loretto Catholic Church in Novato hosted a Marian Exhibit from Dec. 7 – 14, displaying statues and other Marian images from the homes of its parishioners. Chaired by six volunteers, the 2023 collection was separated into months, highlighting the different feast days of Our Lady throughout the year.

Our Lady of Loretto parishioner Alma Pech with the statue of the Blessed Virgin Mary that she donated to the exhibit.

The idea for the Novato display began with an exhibition of Marian art at Our Lady of Peace Church in Santa Clara. Father Tony Vallecillo, pastor of Our Lady of Loretto Church, visited Our Lady of Peace and brought the idea back to the parish. From there, parishioners took the reins and drove the project forward.

The exhibit featured images of Mary from around the world including Peru, Cuba, Spain, Italy, Nicaragua, China, and the Philippines. Each month featured images for major feasts: Mary the Mother of God for January, Our Lady of Lourdes for February, March featured the Annunciation, April was Mary Mother of the Church, May displayed images and statues of Our Lady of Fatima with information about the rosary and Fatima apparitions, June and July highlighted Our Lady of Perpetual Help and Our Lady of Mount Carmel with scapulars that people could take with them. The month of August was dedicated to the Assumption. The September display had a unique statue of Mary as an infant along with images of Our Lady of Sorrows—one painted by a parishioner. October was dedicated to Our Lady of the Rosary, and November highlighted the Presentation of Mary. December honored the Immaculate Conception and Our Lady of Guadalupe.

Catherine Stanek, one of the six chairs, organized the Marian images for the months of May and October and has been present each day of the exhibit, staying after Mass until the last visitors leave. She said visitors have been in awe of the various images of Our Lady, and one woman told her that she had been a parishioner for 40 years and learned so much from the exhibit.

“I am so blessed to be here,” said Stanek. “There’s just an expanding joy that comes out of this room. I honestly can’t describe it. It’s just a grace. Just a joy.”

Maria Santino was asked to join the committee and to take on organizing the months of June and July, covering Our Lady of Perpetual Help and Our Lady of Mount Carmel. 

Santino too felt the graces while organizing the exhibit. “After the initial meeting, I walked away with a peace and joy I didn’t expect,” She said.

“I was very happy to read about the two Marian apparitions because I wasn’t familiar with their stories. I had heard their name, but I did not know the history,” Santino said.

Both women were so impressed how the exhibit brought the parish community together—both in donating their images for display and offering their decorating and artistic talents to set up the hall.

The school was also involved and all the students from grades one through eight came through the exhibit to learn more about the Blessed Mother, her apparitions, and her messages for the world.

The overwhelming message when visiting and speaking with parishioners was one of peace and joy, a fitting gift from our Lady this Advent for a parish dedicated to her and the Holy Family.