Local high school’s mural to commemorate Bishop Verot

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The Florida Catholic Venice Edition

March 2004

By Heather Felton

Bishop Augustin Verot, namesake of Bishop Verot High School, will be commemorated in a new way on the Fort Myers campus at the end of the month. A 16-foot-high by-eight-foot outdoor glass mosaic mural of the bishop, surrounded by icons and symbols of his life, will be unveiled as a permanent fixture on the campus in a special ceremony and reception April 30.

The mural is designed by world-renowned Miami-based artist Xavier Cortada, known for his work for the White House, World Bank, Nike and HBO, among others, said Tracy Bonday-deLeon, development director at the high school. Most recently, Gov. Jeb Bush commissioned an exhibit for Hispanic Awareness Month in the Capitol rotunda in November.

The 900-pound mural for the high school, Bonday-deLeon said, will be mounted along one of the walls of the Santini Building that overlooks the courtyard, and will include icons designed by the students to surround the main image. The icons will show that Bishop Verot was not only the first bishop of Florida, but also, among some of his more “radical” actions, he was the only priest to minister to captured Union soldiers in Savannah, during the Civil War.

Bonday-deLeon said she is one of only a few people to have seen a photo of the fully funded mural.

“It’s a very dynamic piece,” she said. “There is a lot of symbolism incorporated into the painting. It will be a focal point on campus.”

In addition, she said, the staff, students, parents and others involved on campus are rallying behind project.

“The suspense is beginning to catch on,” she said.

In addition, the April 30 gallery showing and reception will be a big event for the campus, she said, because the school is hoping to make it a fundraising event for an endowed scholarship, as well.

Tickets for the event are $50 and will include a cocktail reception, mural unveiling, gallery exhibit, and presentation by the artist, Bonday-deLeon said.

The funds raised will go to an endowed scholarship fund for minority students, which is fitting for the school named for a man who was one of the first priests to provide educational opportunities to freed slaves. The scholarship is anticipated to provide a full four years of Catholic high school education to two students each year.

Principal Father J. Christian Beretta, OSFS, is hopeful about the evening’s event.

“By using the proceeds from this evening to endow a minority scholarship, we are reaching out, in a deliberative manner, to families in the area that may not be able to afford a Verot education for their children,” he said.

This includes contacting groups and organizations beyond the school’s normal constituent base, Bonday-deLeon said, such as the African Caribbean American Center, the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce and the Alliance for the Arts. The school hopes these organizations will help identify students who will benefit from the scholarships.

“We are really excited,” she said. “We’ve gone out into the community to make this an event that will hopefully benefit those beyond the current school community.”

For more information on the Bishop Verot mural, the scholarship program or for tickets to the event, contact Tracy Bonday-deLeon at the high school Development Office at 239-274-6702.