YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio — In an announcement that marked the first anniversary of the COVID-19 pandemic, Mercy Health — Youngstown and the Mercy Health Foundation — Mahoning Valley said a permanent memorial is planned to honor victims of the pandemic and those who cared for them.
The memorial will stand at the front of Mercy Health — St. Elizabeth Youngstown Hospital and is expected to be completed in September, according to Mercy Health officials.
Mercy Health — Youngstown is part of the Bon Secours Mercy Health integrated health system of Catholic hospitals.
A central element of the memorial will be a bronze sculpture by Canadian artist Timothy Schmalz, titled “When I Was Sick,” featuring a patient representing Jesus and lying prone, said Jonathan Fauvie, public relations and communication manager for Mercy Health.
Schmalz, a Catholic, is best known for his 2013 sculpture, “Homeless Jesus,” depicting Jesus as a person in need and alluding to the corporal works of mercy. Replicas of this work have been displayed around the world, including at St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome.
More recently, he created “Angels Unawares,” a bronze sculpture depicting the movement of migrants.
“One year later and I don’t believe anyone could have predicted we would still be fighting the invisible enemy we know as COVID-19,” said Dr. John Luellen, market president at Mercy Health — Youngstown.
“Today we remember those we lost, remind ourselves of the blessing to have survivors and the dedication of our health care workers, in all levels and health systems,” Luellen said at a recent news conference.
“Additionally, (the memorial) will recognize the health care heroes among us who sacrificed greatly to care for the sick and dying in our community,” Luellen concluded.
The memorial at the Youngstown hospital “will permanently observe the global pandemic and represent a tribute to the loved ones we lost and continue to lose,” Fauvie said.
This sculpture and the Mercy Health memorial, Fauvie explained, will be funded by donations to the Mercy Health Foundation. Already, $50,000 of the projected $150,000 has been donated by the medical staff of Mercy Health.
“This memorial is a testament to the continued generosity rooted in those living in the Mahoning Valley,” said Paul Homick Jr., Mercy Health Foundation president.
“The campaign has already begun and with the help of our community, we can permanently memorialize the significance of the COVID-19 pandemic while paying tribute to those who sacrificed greatly,” Homick said.
A series of Schmalz sculptures have been or will be installed in the Youngstown region, Fauvie noted.
In Youngstown itself, Fauvie said, these include a replica of “Homeless Jesus,” to be installed at St. Columba Cathedral; “When I Was Naked,” now displayed at St. John’s Episcopal Church; and “When I was Hungry & Thirsty,” which stands outside First Presbyterian Church.
There are other organizations looking to install the last two sculptures in this series, Fauvie noted, which would make the city of Youngstown “one of only a few cities in the world to be home to all six sculptures.”
In addition to the sculpture, Fauvie said, the hospital’s memorial will include three plaques installed at the site — one honoring caregivers; one remembering those who have lost their lives to COVID-19 or have been otherwise afflicted; and one serving as a permanent historical marker.
Additionally, the memorial will include a time capsule to be opened March 11, 2120, 100 years from the date the World Health Organization officially declared the new coronavirus a pandemic, Fauvie pointed out.