By JoAnne Viviano
The Columbus Dispatch Friday October 18, 2013 4:31 AM
Grace, depicting St. Ann and daughter Mary, is at the Mount Carmel St. Ann’s hospital entrance.
Nina Menduni said there’s a little bit of magic in the marble sculpture of St. Ann she crafted for the new entrance to Mount Carmel St. Ann’s hospital.
That’s because, she said, God was involved.
The former Columbus resident said the slow process of carving, the hundreds of hours of labor involved, create a quiet in which she can connect with her creator.
“God says, ‘Without love everything’s in vain,’ so when I create something I try to add the love,” said Menduni, of St. Joseph, Mich.
The artwork, called Grace, shows St. Ann seated with an arm around daughter Mary, who prayerfully looks upward, hands clasped. Columbus Bishop Frederick Campbell dedicated and blessed the piece as it was unveiled last Friday at the Westerville hospital.
The sculpture lets patients and visitors know that the Catholic hospital is faith-based and “a place of hospitality, healing and hope,” said Janet Meeks, president and chief operating officer at St. Ann’s, which employs about 1,900 people.
She said it also reminds those at the hospital that St. Ann was the grandmother of Jesus and that the Mount Carmel system is a healing ministry that perpetuates the legacy of the nuns who first offered care under the Mount Carmel name in 1886.
While St. Ann is often depicted as a stoic educator, Menduni’s goal was to convey Ann as a mother and Mary as a child and to show that strength and kindness can go hand in hand.
Sister Barbara Hahl, senior vice president for mission for the Mount Carmel Health System, said St. Ann showing love and protection for her daughter provides a welcoming sign for anyone needing healing of body, mind and soul.
“It kind of reflects what we’re there for,” she said. “We show love for the people who enter our hospitals, and we’re there for them.”
The hospital’s new entrance is part of a $110 million expansion, which includes a new tower with 60 beds, a cardiovascular center, an orthopedic, neurosurgery and spine inpatient-care unit, and a parking garage.
The sculpture was commissioned with money donated by Michele and David Bianconi, co-chairs of the Mount Carmel Foundation’s capital campaign for the expansion.
Menduni crafted the St. Ann piece over eight or nine months in Pietrasanta, Italy, where she has lived and worked for parts of the past several years.
Having spent time hospitalized with a chronic illness, Menduni knows how scary a health crisis can be. She said she enjoys doing work for hospitals, especially when her sculptures remind ill people and their families that faith in God can help.
“It is my hope that this statue will provide comfort, peace and strengthen the faith of those who are being cared for or visiting a loved one at St. Ann’s hospital,” she said.