A familiar mosaic depicting the Blessed Mother under her title Our Lady of Perpetual Help now adorns one of the most visible locations in the Alphonse J. Schwartze Memorial Catholic Center in Jefferson City.
The Italian mosaic was originally created for a side wall inside the Cathedral of St. Joseph, which is undergoing its first major renovation in its 54-year history.
Construction workers recently installed the image in a well-lit new niche behind the reception desk near the entrance to the Catholic Center.
“We found a good home for it,” said Bishop W. Shawn McKnight.
The original, 15th-century Byzantine icon on which the mosaic is based was entrusted by Blessed Pope Pius IX (+1846-78) to the Congregation of the Most Holy Redeemer, known as the Redemptorist Fathers, in 1866. Since then, the icon has adorned the space behind the altar of St. Alphonsus Liguori Church in Rome.
The icon depicts Jesus’s mother looking compassionately on all people even as she comforts her Child from premonitions of His eventual crucifixion and death.
In entrusting the image to the Redemptorists, the longest-reigning successor of St. Peter asked them to “make her known throughout the world.”
Bishop Emeritus John R. Gaydos, who led the Jefferson City diocese from 1997-2018, offered his first Mass under the original Our Lady of Perpetual Help icon in Rome on Dec. 18, 1968 — four days before Bishop Joseph M. Marling C.PP.S., founding bishop of Jefferson City, offered the first Mass in the then-brand-new Cathedral of St. Joseph.
St. Alphonsus Liguori, founder of the Redemptorists, is the patron saint of the late Alphonse J. Schwartze, in whose memory the Catholic Center was built and named.
The chapel in the center is named in honor of St. Alphonsus Liguori.
Two of Bishop Gaydos’s uncles were Redemptorist Fathers. He served for six years as pastor of a parish in the St. Louis archdiocese that was founded by Redemptorist priests not far from the site of their former seminary in Kirkwood.
The Catholic Missourian and the St. Louis Review, newspaper of the St. Louis archdiocese, announced his appointment as third bishop of Jefferson City in their issues dated June 27, 1997 — the feastday of Our Lady of Perpetual Help.
Bishop Gaydos remembers looking out from the sanctuary of the Cathedral of St. Joseph for the first time during his Ordination and Installation Mass and seeing the image of Our Lady of Perpetual Help.
“With that, I knew I was home,” he said.