Mother Teresa statue is “visual reminder”

Mother Teresa receives the pere Marquette Discovery medal in 1981.

Mother Teresa receives the Pere Marquette Discovery medal in 1981.

For nearly five years, the statue of Mother Teresa of Calcutta waited for its unveiling.

During that time, the university worked with the statue’s donor to bring a prominent Catholic figure to Milwaukee for the statue’s blessing: Pope Benedict XVI.

Vincent Kuttemperoor, founder, chief executive officer and president of V.K. Development Corp. in Brookfield, donated the statue to the university in November 2004 and worked for three years to bring the pope to Milwaukee. Kuttemperoor even traveled to Rome and extended a personal invitation to the pope.

“I tried my very best to bring the pope here,” Kuttemperoor said.

Although the pope will not be present today for the statue’s 11:30 a.m. dedication, Kuttemperoor is expected to join University President the Rev. Robert A. Wild  for a simple blessing. The statue currently stands between the east entrance of Schroeder Complex and the St. Joan of Arc Chapel.

After years of announcements about the statue’s installation and subsequent delays, Wild said he decided the statue’s dedication should coincide with the Centennial Celebration of Women at Marquette.

“Her (Mother Teresa) commitment to serving the poor and marginalized in our society is core to our Jesuit mission and identity, being men and women for others,” said Rana Altenburg, vice president for public affairs and co-chair of the Centennial Celebration of Women planning committee.

She said the representation of Mother Teresa is inspiring and students, faculty and visitors on campus will see it on a daily basis because it is located in a central part of campus.

“When you walk past Mother Teresa, it will be a visual reminder of your call to service,” Altenburg said. “Hopefully it will make people more reflective, more prayerful and more tolerant of the world we’re in.”

Wild said the statue also commemorates Mother Teresa’s 1981 visit to Marquette, when the university awarded her its highest honor, the Pere Marquette Discovery Award.

Crafted by internationally recognized Indian artist, Gautam Pal, the bronze likeness of Mother Teresa holding a child stands at 6 feet, 6 inches.

Kuttemperoor said he ordered the statue specially from Calcutta through the associate dean emeritus of the Marquette School of Dentistry, Prem Sharma, who knows Pal personally. Pal also constructed the statue of Mahatma Gandhi that currently stands east of the Milwaukee County Courthouse in MacArthur Square.

Kuttemperoor said his father-in-law personally knew Mother Teresa and raised funds for her mission. Kuttemperoor said he admired her for her work with the poor and marginalized.

For nearly half a century, Mother Teresa ministered to the poor, orphaned, sick and dying. She also founded the Missionaries of Charity in Calcutta. According to her official Web site, Missionaries of Charity had established 610 foundations in 123 countries by the time of her death in 1997.

“She sacrificed a lot for herself and for the other sisters to work for the poor and the needy,” Kuttemperoor said. “How many people will do that? It’s just like a mother to her children.”

When Wild saw the statue for the first time last month, he said he thought it was a great fit for the university.

“I think it’s really very well done,” Wild said. “Various people have said to me that it catches Mother Teresa’s likeness quite well.”

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