Statue of Mary envisioned for San Ysidro near U.S.-Mexico border

40-foot-tall monument would stand as symbol to welcome immigrants and refugees headed to the U.S., planned for hilltop parking lot at Our Lady of Mount Carmel Church

Rendering of the “Welcome the Stranger”, a monument of Mary inspired by the Statue of Liberty. The project will cost $2 million. (Michael Ojeda)

Inspired by the Statue of Liberty, a 40-foot-tall monument of Mary, mother of Jesus, will stand as a symbol intended to welcome immigrants and refugees headed to the U.S.

The statue will go up on the hilltop parking lot of Our Lady of Mount Carmel Church in San Ysidro, where community members convened Friday to kick off a crowdfunding campaign to raise $1 million to build the monument. The parking lot overlooks the U.S.-Mexico border.

“It will stand as a beacon of hope and encouragement for people engaged in the struggle of the migrant,” said artist Jim Bliesner, who drew inspiration from immigrants across San Diego for the statue’s design.

Artist Jim Bliesner stands next to a model of his statue of the Mary as Lady Liberty. Named “Welcome the Stranger”, the 40-foot-tall statue at Our Lady of Mt. Carmel Church will overlook the U.S.-Mexico border. (Hayne Palmour IV / San Diego Union-Tribune)

The $2 million project, spearheaded by nonprofit San Diego Organizing Project, already has received $1 million from the California Endowment, a private health foundation. The hope is to raise the next $1 million and build the statue by early 2019.

It will be named “Welcome the Stranger.”

Bishop Robert McElroy, of the Roman Catholic Diocese of San Diego, said the monument and its location will send a strong message about the border.

“It is a symbol and powerful reminder that for us, for us as people of faith, for us as America, the border represents not a line of separation,” he said, “but a line that unites us to Latin America.”

The idea of the sculpture surfaced roughly a year ago. It was designed by Bliesner with input from community members who attended workshops, where they shared their ideas and personal stories.

“Most of the inspiration came from listening to members of the congregation and the community about how emotional this subject is. People were crying, people were telling their stories,” Bliesner said. “I couldn’t help but take that away as the primary element in creating the piece.”

As ideas were generated, Mary emerged as a symbol of hope. Community members noted she fled with her family to Egypt as a refugee soon after the birth of Jesus.

The statue incorporates several symbolic elements. The “turgid, severe geometry” of Mary’s robe, which has several perforations, represents the difficult trek immigrants embark on, while spots of color in the folds of her robe symbolize moments of kindness in their journeys, Bliesner said.

The torch, he said, represents hope for a brighter future.

LEED lighting within the statue will illuminate it at night. Seating and drought-tolerant landscaping will surround the base.

Full story at San Diego U-T.


  1. Asbury Fox says

    That statue is utterly hideous looking. As ugly and twisted as the alleged faith of the American episcopate and false church.

    Our Lady is beautiful and holiness. Her statues should reflect beauty.

  2. Why is Mexico welcoming refuges to the US? People are supposed to take refuge in the first country they are “safe” in. Mexico should be welcoming them, not providing a gateway to the next country. Sorry, but if they are already in a safe country, they are not refugees, they are travelers.

  3. Peter Comaskey says

    Wouldn’t it be nice if the Church was as forceful and active in fighting abortion as it is for immigration? We’re the only species that murders its unborn children and future unlike other animals, then replace them with 3rd world immigrants with 5-8 grade educations. If those 60 million plus murdered Americans had been allowed to live and become tax paying ,productive citizens then no great need for large amounts of immigrants who are overturning the historical makeup of this nation . This great sin America will pay for as we’re already in its fall & decline.

    • Historical makeup of this nation? You are not going very far back in history, one assumes.

    • Emmet McGee says

      By historical makeup of this nation do you mean the Native Americans who were savagely treated, and where they weren’t slaughtered, were driven off their land to be replaced by large hordes of white European immigrants with virtually no education? Read your history books, Peter.

      • The Native Americans were fighting with each other before any other groups came over here. Cortez did not take over Mexico by himself. Other Indian tribes fought with him against the Aztecs because they were tired of being used as human sacrifices.. Many of those who fought with Cortez were some of the first ones educated in the Spanish Universities there. The Spaniards in Mexico were educating women in their universities before women were even being educated over here.

  4. Hideous looking piece of dreck…..its an insult to Our Lady….but hey its the spirit of Vatican 2

  5. Won’t be able to see the statue from the south. The wall will obstruct the view.

  6. All I can say is, “Good grief, is this artist trying to insult Mexicans?” If I saw that thing coming at me, I would run the other way. It looks more like a spooky Halloween figure with a knife in its hand.

  7. I just can’t imagine what that monstrosity is supposed to represent. Certainly not my Blessed Mother! Her own rendition of Herself as Our Lady of Guadalupe is more beautiful than that! Creepy! I hope that they fall short of the money to create it and that it will never be made.

    • The colors seem to be from Latin American flags. Some people wave them at the Vatican events. With one group of bishops and priests pushing one thing, and another group of bishops and priests pushing something else, it remains a puzzlement to me.

    • There are a lot of images of Mary that are not aesthetically beautiful but miracles have been attributed to them. An image of the Blessed Mother should be respected even if you don’t like it. It represents Her. You should be an image of Her.

      • That is not totally true. There have been some blasphemous, non approved images of Our Lord and Our Lady, such as the “the Crucifix in Urine” (known by a vulgar name), images made of cow dung and pictures of Our Lady in mini skirts. One has to be very careful what one uses and where one buys it.

        I have seen beautiful art work of Our Lady from a multitude of countries. We are not talking about just a pretty face. The image should portray holiness and virtue.

  8. A beautiful statue of Our Lady of Guadalupe made in metal, similar to the metal statue of the Immaculate Heart of Mary on the grounds of Our Lady of Peace Shrine in Santa Clara, California, would be far more appropriate.

    The idea of making one similar to the Statue of Liberty is not original. There is already a statue called Our Lady of America that is similar to the Statue of Liberty. It is from a nun’s vision that was approved by Archbishop Paul L. Leibold. There is still debate over which version of it to use.

  9. Already love this proposed statute of the Mother of Our Lord Jesus Christ. The idea of her welcoming all who approach her Son through her intercession with an open heart and life exemplifies her humility and holiness and thus…greatness.

    • Michael P. Mc Crory. says

      You actually like this UGLY STATUE?
      You are either having us on
      You are too easily pleased. You need to be more discriminating.

  10. With no apparitional precedent, perhaps the image was conjured from a Walter McMitty daydream.

  11. The Strangers’ view of the statue will be blocked literally and figuratively by The San Ysidro Las Americas Premium Outlets Mall which is more welcoming, better lit, and right on the border.

    The $2,000,000.00 would be better spent on more Scandal Insurance.

  12. Linda Maria says

    Since this statue is to be placed at Our Lady of Mt. Carmel Church– it would be great, if a traditional Catholic sculpter could make a beautiful, traditional, very large statue of Our Lady of Mt. Carmel– well-lit at night, like Our Lady of Peace. Parishioners could have many sacred traditions held yearly. Others seeing this beautiful statue, at a distance, would be comforted in their plights, and feel closer to God.

COMMENTS POLICY: Comments are limited to 750 characters and will be truncated at 750. Comments should not contain offensive or libelous language. Please strive to be civil. All comments are subject to approval by our moderator and to editing as the moderator deems appropriate. Inclusion of your email address is optional.

Speak Your Mind

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

COMMENTS POLICY: Comments are limited to 750 characters and will be truncated at 750. Comments should not contain offensive or libelous language. Please strive to be civil. All comments are subject to approval by our moderator and to editing as the moderator deems appropriate. Inclusion of your email address is optional.