New sculpture celebrates St. Mary of the Valley centennial

By John Wolcott

Hundreds of St. Mary of the Valley parishioners turned out for the parish’s 100th anniversary celebration, eager to witness the unveiling of a centennial sculpture linked to the parish’s past.

Father Phillip Bloom, pastor of St. Mary of the Valley in Monroe and Marysville sculptor Mark Walker
Father Phillip Bloom, pastor of St. Mary of the Valley in Monroe, admires the Madonna and Child statue after it was unveiled by Marysville sculptor Mark Walker during the parish’s centennial celebration Aug. 25.  Photo courtesy St. Mary of the Valley Parish


Father Phil Bloom, St. Mary’s pastor, described the day as a “super-positive” event that had everyone excited, particularly over the bronze Madonna and Child statue created by Marysville artist and sculptor Mark Walker. “He spent hundreds of hours designing and creating the centennial statue of Our Lady of the Valley,” Father Bloom said.

Inspired by 16th-century paintings, the sculpture incorporates pieces of the parish’s 1913 brass church bell, which was stolen in 2011 and broken up by metal thieves, Father Bloom said.

“Everyone loved it,” the pastor said. “He poured out his heart for this. It was very challenging.”

The statue was blessed during the Aug. 25 centennial celebration by Archbishop J. Peter Sartain, who also blessed the parish’s renovated hall and kitchen, as well as the parish’s new daycare and preschool facility.

Pulling out the stops
Walker, who teaches art at Mountlake Terrace High School, originally intended to melt the bell’s pieces to form the sculpture. Then he discovered that the fragments contained lead, zinc, arsenic and other contaminates that would cause problems with the molding process. That’s when he decided to blend the pieces into the sculpture’s base.

The pedestal includes mountains, trees and a river representing Monroe’s Snohomish River valley. Images of the young Jesus and his mother rise from the heavy base. The back of Mary’s halo appears as a rising sun over the mountains and the back of her elbow shows a river cascading to the floor of the valley. The sculpture, now installed at the main entrance to the church, includes a holy water font.

“I don’t usually do things like this, but being a bronze statue of Mary and Jesus, I really pulled out all the stops,” said Walker, who is Christian, but not Catholic. “I thought they would want a crucifix so I was researching that. When I found out they wanted Mary and Jesus, I talked to God throughout the whole process to get it right. I was really nervous.”

Rich, diverse history
The 100th anniversary festivities began with a Mass concelebrated by Archbishop Sartain; Bishop Joseph Tyson of the Yakima Diocese, who was pastor from 1993-96; and Father Joseph Petosa, pastor from 1966-71. (Nineteen other pastors served the parish over the last century.)

During the ceremonies after Mass, young people from the parish released 100 white doves that soared over the church. The parish picnic followed, with the Knights of Columbus cooking hotdogs and hamburgers and the Hispanic choir providing entertainment. The parish hall was filled with photo albums, historic items and a continuous slideshow of 1,000 images of the church’s history.

Founded as a mission of St. Michael Parish in Snohomish in 1902, St. Mary of the Valley began with 20 families. The church grew as the area’s population increased, and it became a parish in 1913, with Father D.P. Kelly as the first pastor.

During the 1980s and ’90s, the Monroe area experienced enormous growth, as did the parish. In the early 1990s, St. Mary of the Valley became the first parish in Snohomish County to regularly celebrate the Mass in Spanish. Today, about half of the parish’s 860 families are Hispanic.

Father Bloom said the parish has benefited from the presence and participation of Sister Barbara Geib, a Sister of Notre Dame de Namur, who came to the St. Mary of the Valley in 1977.

Parish ministries include a Generations of Faith program, an active and growing youth program and a men’s group that developed the regional “Iron Sharpens Iron” spiritual-growth conference that attracted several hundred men. It was the largest event of the parish’s centennial year celebration, Father Bloom said.

View photos of the parish’s centennial celebration at

August 31, 2013