The Grotto

At Our Lady of Good Counsel High School, we are proud to have the Blessed Mother as our patroness. Around our beautiful campus and within our school building, we have many three-dimensional depictions of Our Lady, yet curiously, none of them depict Our Lady of Good Counsel, neither by following the traditional iconography nor by depicting Our Lady in a way that makes it clear that she is engaged in offering good counsel.

We have begun a project to create a home for Our Lady of Good Counsel – a grotto. The grotto is located between the Kane Center and the Kline Stadium near the eastern border of the school property. We have commissioned a world-renowned sculptor, Tim Schmalz, to the create the sculpture of Our Lady of Good Counsel and the Child Jesus.

We invite you to explore below to learn more about the Grotto Project – a holy and peaceful place on our campus for student prayer and reflection. Mr. Schmalz is creating the sculpture at this very moment, and we anticipate the installation in 2017. Imagine how we are going to be able to engage the young people in our school as well as the broader community of faith.

We need your support to complete this important project for our school community. Gifts of all sizes are encouraged and welcomed. Are you willing to lend your financial support to this transformational expression of our identity as a Catholic school?



Our Patroness

Our campus shows reverence for Our Lady of Good Counsel in many ways. In the center of the school’s building footprint is the Chapel. There, the soaring center panel of the stained glass window depicts Our Lady of Good Counsel. The iconography is traditional: Mother and Child gaze at one another rather than at the viewer; Jesus pulls gently on the hem of his Mother’s dress.

Elsewhere on our 51-acre campus we have various three-dimensional depictions of Our Lady. There are three statues inside and two outside:

This wood carving from Germany depicts Our Lady of Lourdes and came over from the Wheaton campus.

This statue of the Holy Family resides in a first floor alcove.

This statue of Our Lady of Guadalupe resides in a second floor alcove.

This statue of Our Lady of Wisdom stands directly in front of the school, behind the signage that faces Old Vic Boulevard.

This statue of Our Lady of Grace stands near the school's south entrance to the building, across from the stadium.

The curious thing is that none of these five statues depicts Our Lady of Good Counsel. We believe it is time for us to make a home for a sculpture of Our Lady of Good Counsel.

The Grotto

We have, in fact, begun.

As long as three years ago we sought a landscape design for a possible grotto on campus. Zachary Barker, Landscape Architecture Designer of Ground Reconsidered of Philadelphia, PA, provided a design pro bono in June 2013.

Early in the summer of 2015, Grounds Manager John Poulos ’77, realizing he had room left in his budget and time to oversee construction of a grotto, engaged Stone Works, Inc. of Gaithersburg, MD to build that design. The owner of Stone Works, Andy Cocozzella ’73, has extensive ties with the Our Lady of Good Counsel High School community. The construction, reliably estimated as a $30,000 project was billed at $14,000, essentially an in-kind gift of $16,000.

Even in the absence of a statue, the grotto has already proved to be a valuable space. For example, during freshman retreat, the location is used as a gathering space for student talks and for prayer.

The grotto is located near the eastern border of the school property (Batchellors Forest Road), roughly equidistant from the southeastern corner of the main building and the stadium entrance.

The missing piece is, of course, the statue.

The Search for a Sculptor

We researched sculptors who have a portfolio of work on religious themes.

Several faculty and staff (Principal Tom Campbell ’93; Grounds Manager John Poulos ’77; Chief Advancement Officer Jane DiGirolamo; Chaplain Fr. Tom Lavin; Campus Minister Tony Tamberino; Religion teachers Peg Weidner and Jose Remedios; Art teachers Gretchen Irby and Nick Clulow; Counselor Eleanor Donaghue, Assistant Principals Chuck Ehrman, Amanda Stortzum, Kate Walsh; teachers Dick Burns and Patricia Riely; and Bill Mooney ’68 from the Business Office) were invited to review the body of work of the sculptors.

There was a clear preference for two finalists: Timothy Schmalz (Ontario) and Jay Carpenter (Maryland). Both sculptors visited campus and made presentations.

Timothy Schmalz, Sculptor

We chose to commission Tim Schmalz based on his striking design concept for a sculpture of Our Lady of Good Counsel and the Child Jesus studying a scriptural scroll that cascades onto a table. Our Lady, Jesus, the scroll, the table and surrounding seats are all to be cast in bronze.

Mr. Schmalz has a global reputation. His work is displayed extensively at both religious and civic sites in his native Canada. Among his best known works are Homeless Jesus (found in downtown Washington, DC and at the Vatican) and I Absolve You - St. Padre Pio (found in Greensburg, PA and in Italy).

Homeless Jesus

I Absolve You

The Design

What the team of faculty and staff admired about this design is that it is markedly different than traditional depictions of Mary in several ways:

1. Mary and Jesus are not enclosed in the alcove but framed by it;
2. Jesus is older, recognizably a young child rather than a baby or infant;
3. departing from the traditional iconography, Mother and Child are engaged in dialogue about what they see in the scroll;
4. the scroll contains multiple images and accompanying text drawn from Sacred Scripture and highlighting “good counsel” or wisdom;
5. the unusual and complex thrust of the sculpture that pushes out toward the viewer with the cascading scroll and the table and seats;
6. the presence of table and seats creates a decision point for the viewer – Will I sit down? And, if I do, how will I engage with the imagery that is right in front of me?

In short, the appeal of this design is that it will elicit more than a shrug of the shoulders from sometimes hard-to-impress teenagers. They really will not be able to say that the statue looks more or less like any other statue we have on campus. This statue is invitational and inspirational; it says, “Stay and rest a while with me.”

An Appeal from President Barker

This remarkable all-bronze sculpture is projected to cost just under $160,000. Work on expansion and reinforcement of the existing pad of the Grotto is expected to cost an additional $15,000.

The project is expected to take about a year from beginning to installation. Tim Schmalz was given notice to proceed in March 2016. Maybe it was my Field of Dreams moment; in a leap of faith, I gave Tim the green light without the funding in hand. In most circumstances, this would be foolhardy. I did so because I know that there are many who share a special devotion to the Blessed Mother and who understand what an asset this unique depiction of Our Lady of Good Counsel will be. I believe this project will resonate in a way that support for traditional bricks and mortar often do not. Imagine how we are going to be able to engage the young people in our school. Beyond our own needs, I am convinced that this sculpture will inspire the broader community of faith and draw people to our campus. Perhaps you can see yourself coming to sit and spend some time at this table.

I invite you, to offer your financial support for this transformational expression of our identity as a Catholic school. Gifts of all sizes are encouraged and welcomed. If you have any questions, please contact Chief Advancement Officer, Julie Potter at (240) 283-3234 or

Thank you for your consideration.


Paul G. Barker, Ed.D.