Fr. Thomas McGlynn Exhibit

Priest and Sculptor

An exhibition of the works of Dominican priest and sculptor Fr. Thomas McGlynn, O.P, will be on display at the Church of St. Vincent Ferrer from Sep 23-Oct 15. The exhibit includes four pieces permanently present in the church as well as a special display of maquettes related to McGlynn’s statue of Our Lady of Fatima on loan from Providence College.

Fr. Thomas McGlynn, O.P., 1906-1977 was a Dominican Priest and trained sculptor who viewed his art as part of his apostolic mission. He earned a diploma in sculpture from the Royal Academy in Rome in 1934 and later studied at Cranbrook Academy in Bloomfield Hills, Michigan, under the guidance of Swedish sculptor Carl Milles. Fr. McGlynn is most famous for his statue of Our Lady of Fatima that adorns the front of the Sanctuary of Our Lady of Fatima in Portugal, where Sts. Jacinta and Francisco Marta were canonized by Pope Francis this year.

This exhibit, sponsored by the St. John Paul II Society and made possible through the cooperation of Providence College, commemorates the 100th anniversary of the Fatima apparitions and the dedication of the Shrine of the St. John Paul II Society.

Church of St. Vincent Ferrer

869 Lexington Ave

New York, NY 10065

History of Fr. McGlynn’s Our Lady of Fatima

Fr. Thomas McGlynn, O.P., was an early Fatima enthusiast. As he learned more about the apparitions, his interest in applying his skill toward capturing an accurate depiction of the Lady seen by the three child visionaries grew. Fr. McGlynn made his first attempt in 1946, preparing his original Our Lady of Fatima statue in a studio located in Providence, Rhode Island, while he was serving at Providence College. After securing the permission of the Cardinal Archbishop of Lisbon to meet with Sr. Lucia dos Santos, the only visionary to live past childhood, Fr. McGlynn displayed his first statue to her in an effort gain her approval of his work in a meeting arranged at her convent near Oporto, Portugal.

After examining the statue for some time, Sr. Lucia pointed out several significant ways in which Fr. McGlynn’s first attempt differed from the vision of Our Lady she had seen as a child. Nonetheless, Fr. McGlynn’s disappointment turned to inspiration as he sought and obtained permission to work under Sr. Lucia’s direction in creating a second, more accurate, depiction of the vision.

With Sr. Lucia as the narrator and Fr. McGlynn as the instrument, the two worked for seven days from February 8 to February 14 in 1947 to capture the image of our Lady more accurately. Fr. McGlynn and Sr. Lucia focused on the manner in which Our Lady appeared in the June 1917 apparition. In the second version of the statue, the right hand is raised in the manner Sr. Lucia recalled. The appearance of the Immaculate Heart depicted in Fr. McGlynn’s second attempt was also unique to the June apparition.

Fr. Thomas McGlynn, O.P., working on original Our Lady of Fatima maquette

Expanding the Vision

Other changes from the first version were driven by Sr. Lucia’s recollection as well. Sr. Lucia reported to Fr. McGlynn that waves of light emanated from Our Lady in a way that gave the impression of a garment in folds. The creases in the tunic represent Fr. McGlynn’s attempt to depict Sr. Lucia’s description. Sr. Lucia also reported that she saw something like a star positioned toward the bottom of Our Lady’s tunic, and that a small ball of light attached to a cord appeared to hang around her neck. Both are features of the statue. The facial expression in the statue is designed to portray Our Lady’s expression as described by Sr. Lucia to Fr. McGlynn as one that is “Pleasing but sad. Sweet but sad.”

After returning from Portugal, Fr. McGlynn completed the 5-foot version of the statue and dedicated it at St. Vincent Ferrer on Mother’s Day, May 11, 1947. A statue of a small scaled-man was used by Fr. McGlynn to determine relationships between different sizes of the Our Lady of Fatima statue. Fr. McGlynn made sculptures of the three children – Lucia, Francesco and Jacinta (the latter two now canonized saints) after the installation of the 5-foot version of the statue.

In 1956, Fr. McGlynn travelled to Pietrasanta, Italy, to begin work on the 15’-½” marble version of the statue now found on the façade of the basilica at the Fatima shrine in Portugal. Fr. McGlynn completed the larger, marble version of the statue two years later and, after a passage over land and sea, the statue was dedicated at the Fatima shrine on May 13, 1958. A sign on the protective crate that carried the statue read: “Gift of the Catholics of North America to the Shrine at Fatima.”

For more information, see Vision of Fatima, by Fr. Thomas McGlynn, O.P. (reprinted by Sophia Institute Press, 2017), and Thomas McGlynn, Priest and Sculptor, by Fr. Richard A. McAlister, O.P. (Providence College Press, 1981).

Fatima visionary Sr. Lucia stands with Fr. McGlynn's revised maquette.
Fr. McGlynn's statue adorns the front of the Sanctuary of Our Lady of Fatima in Portugal. Shown here flanked by banners of Sts. Francisco and Jacinta Marto on the day of their canonization by Pope Francis. Photo by Gabriella Cerqueira.

St. John Paul II and Our Lady of Fatima

St. John Paul II, who lost his own mother while only 9 years old, dedicated his papacy to Our Lady. His papal motto, Totus Tuus (“totally yours”) refers to his special Marian commitment. After an attempt on his life was made on May 13, 1981, the Feast of Our Lady of Fatima, he credited his survival to the intercession of the Blessed Mother. The St. John Paul II Society has installed a first-class relic, a blood-soaked piece of the papal sash he was wearing during the assassination attempt, at the base of Fr. McGlynn’s statue of Our Lady of Fatima to memorialize the connection between the sainted Pope and the Mother of Christ. Click here to learn more.