The Archdiocese of Milwaukee held the public rededication at Cathedral Square Park for the restored Immigrant Mother statue created by Croatian artist Ivan Meštrović on November 13.
The bronze sculpture depicts a mother with her children, and was originally installed in 1960 to honor universal motherhood. It was designed as a reminder for area residents that all Milwaukee mothers had come from some other distant land, and that those who believed in the core values of the national identity would be rewarded with the possibilities of American life.
The rededication ceremony was led by Janan Najeeb, Rabbi Marcey Rosenbaum, and Shelly Roder. Marquette University’s Father Steven Avella shared a history of immigration in Milwaukee and the story of the Valiant Mother statue.
“Milwaukee embodied the values of inclusivity that I learned as a kid in grade school, and the kind of authentic Americanism to which I and others subscribed. Immigrants came to work in the industrial Milwaukee factories, build the roads and infrastructure, open the stores, and created the neighborhoods that united the mosaic of the city,” said Father Avella. “But Milwaukee has also gone through periods of xenophobia, and we struggle always with the racism that seems deeply embedded in our national DNA.”
William George Bruce was an esteemed businessman and publisher in Milwaukee. He produced a three-volume history of the city, and was instrumental in developing Milwaukee’s position as a world port. He bequeathed $30,000 for the creation of the motherhood sculpture to be based on the likeness of his mother, Apollonia Becker Bruce, and it would stand for all immigrant mothers bringing up children in the New World. It was placed in Cathedral Square in recognition of Bruce’s lifelong devotion to the Roman Catholic Church.
Meštrović’s Immigrant Mother was restored late last year, and the rededication was scheduled to coincide with the launch of a world-wide campaign in support of migrants and refugees by Pope Francis.
The statue is located opposite the Cathedral of St. John the Evangelist, standing 7 feet high on top of a 4 foot pedestal. The inscription on the base reads: “Dedicated to the valiant immigrant mothers, by William George Bruce.”