Salesianum Pays Tribute to our Patron Saint


Statue of St. Francis DeSales by local sculptor Brad Vanneman

Owen Fink, Staff Writer

How do we remember people who have gone before us, while at the same time allowing them to pass on respectfully in our memories? The Salesianum community can identify personally with this struggle, having lost two of our brothers early in 2016. The deaths of Tyler Brown ’16 and Matthew Griffith ’19 left a void in our community that is continuing to heal. At Salesianum, Tyler and Matt were each given pages in the 2016 yearbook in memory of their lives to help provide closure to the school and their families.

The statue of St. Francis de Sales in the main lobby is a similar remembrance for our patron saint, a different way to represent aspects of his life. Created by local sculptor Brad Vanneman, the statue weighs 560 pounds and measures just over 6′ tall, around 4′ wide, and just under 3′ deep, protruding slightly from the alcove in which it was placed. Mr. Vanneman said this was intentional, with the raised hand meant to stick out and make the statue appear more lifelike. The statue does actually appear to be a real person cast in bronze, with details as small as the lace on St. Francis’ robe being faithfully recreated.

In the planning process, Mr. Vanneman left no stone unturned when it came to researching parts of St. Francis’ life to incorporate into the statue, communicating with Mrs. Gardner and Father Beretta to find special details. Hidden around the base of the statue are nods to St. Francis’ relationship with nature, with a wolf’s pawprint tucked away behind the right foot of the statue. The print represents the time that St. Francis was chased up a tree by wolves at night while on missionary work to convert Calvinists; in the morning, he was found by Calvinists and brought to their house to feed and care for him. Francis, as a way to give thanks to these kind people, spoke to them about God and the Gospels and showed them the way of the Church.

Enlightened and grateful, the Calvinists converted to Christianity and St. Francis left to continue his mission.

Many other details snuck their way in, including a mile marker with “ANNECY” on in behind the statue and the name of St. Jane de Chantal in the book that St. Francis is holding. Aspects like these represent all the small facets and hidden parts of a person’s life that can be found when remembering someone after they’re gone. Such details, along with the lifelike image of the statue and its outstretched hand, make it feel like St. Francis is truly here with us each day, inspiring us to “be who we are, and be that well.”