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          Front Page




S. Valley Work Goes to France

By Juan-Carlos Rodriguez
Journal Staff Writer
    One of the Catholic church's most cherished shrines in the world now has its first American sculpture— and it's the creation of a South Valley artist.
    Tim Hooten, born and raised in Albuquerque and a current South Valley resident, recently completed a bronze statue of St. Bernadette that was shipped to Lourdes, France, where pilgrims journey to each year to visit the spot where a 14-year-old peasant girl named Bernadette Soubirous reported multiple visions of the Virgin Mary in 1858.
    Hooten said he drew inspiration from St. Bernadette's story.
    "It was someone who was really dedicated to something in their life and believed in something so clearly. I think that's pretty amazing, and kind of a rare thing in a person," Hooten said.
    St. Bernadette is credited with uncovering a wellspring of healing waters in Lourdes, of which the Catholic Church says have contributed to inexplicable cures of ailments. Although she died in 1879, her body has hardly decomposed at all, said Dan Paulos, director of the Shrine of St. Bernadette parish in Albuquerque.
    The 4-foot 7-inch tall bronze statue reflects St. Bernadette's actual height and is one of two Hooten is making. One has already been shipped to France, while another that is being finished will rest here in Albuquerque at the Shrine of St. Bernadette.
    Paulos said he had worked with Hooten in the past on other commissions and is very happy with the way it turned out.
    "It is really a beautiful work of art," Paulos said. "This particular statue is the first American statue within the walls of the (Lourdes) shrine, so we're very proud."
    Hooten said he tried to keep his statue simple.
    "You can tell a pretty good story without having too much complex stuff involved," Hooten said. "And I wanted to make it fairly traditional."
    Sculpture has been part of Hooten's life since he was a boy using Sculpey, a ceramic material that can be baked in the oven.
    "That's what I did, that's how I played," he said.
    Hooten said he enjoys working with metal now.
    "It's physical, it's fun. ... You can move it around in ways you can't with wood," Hooten said.
    Paulos said the Albuquerque parish has been elevated to the status of a shrine because the Sisters of Charity of Nevers, in France, whose order St. Bernadette joined, have donated relics such as a lock of her hair and a sleeping sock in which she died.
    St. Bernadette is the patron saint of the sick, the poverty-stricken, families and shepherds.
    The shrine in Lourdes attracts somewhere around 6 million people every year, Paulos said.
    "People of many faiths go to see what is going on there," Paulos said. "And what is going on is people are there in unison, praying for healing."
    Paulos said there are two processions to the shrine each day, one for the sick and another candlelight one in the evening. He said because so many physically ill people come to Lourdes to visit the shrine, the shrine has people that greet the sick as they arrive by train and then transport them to hospitals near the shrine.
    "In the first procession, people get wheeled out on their gurneys and wheelchairs," Paulos said, adding the second is a candlelight procession in the evening.
    Hooten's statue will be dedicated in Lourdes in June, and he will be there.
    "I'm extremely excited," Hooten said. "It will be really interesting."