by Nathaniel Lee Rush Bentz
I have been an intern here for the Fall 2019 semester and I have discovered one of—if not the—most fascinating artifacts I have processed so far. This artifact is a large, metal crucifix with its very own metal plaque stating, “This crucifix was blessed by Pope Paul VI and donated to Providence Hospital [located in Washington, D.C.] by Monsignor Hugh Phillips September 14, 1975.” Having the responsibility to handle and process such an artifact is unbelievable. The weight of the situation is both physical and figurative because this piece is entirely made from brass and copper, making it very heavy, and the fact that a Pope blessed it—let alone interacted with it—makes this processing a rare opportunity for myself.
The donor, Monsignor High Phillips, is an important figure to this artifact in a different respect; he has a strong affiliation to Mount St. Mary’s University, at which I am a Senior student. Monsignor Phillips was a student at the grade school located on the Mount’s campus. He spent his high school, college, and seminary years on campus and eventually becoming the school’s President—back when Mount St. Mary’s University was titled Mount St. Mary’s College—from 1967 to 1971. Before his presidency, he was a leading figure in maintaining Mount Saint Mary’s famous Grotto of Lourdes as its Director between the years 1958 and 2001. This honor of processing an artifact from a fellow member of the Mount community is astounding, especially given his accomplishments. What was fascinating with regards to Monsignor Phillips’ life is that he was born in the very same Washington, D.C. Providence Hospital that was gifted his donation of this blessed crucifix.
Having a fellow member of the Mount involved with the history of this artifact is one honor, but knowing that this very artifact is affiliated with a Pope as well is another amazing honor. I am not a very religious person, but I can recognize the authority, responsibilities, and image the Pope has to Catholics around the world, especially at Mount Saint Mary’s University. Moreover, getting the opportunity to interact with a blessed artifact is, what I would consider, a unique opportunity of the Daughters’ archive.
Besides the history behind the crucifix, physically speaking, this crucifix breaks norms compared to the other artifacts I have processed in the previous months of this fall semester. The dimensions of this piece deny it to be placed in its own box (for the time being), and it is incredibly heavy. To be extra careful, I find it safer and easier to transport the crucifix and the plaque by cart than carrying it by hand. The length of this crucifix is also large in comparison to other processed artifacts, standing at a height of two-and-a-half feet! The sheer size of this artifact makes a grand statement on its own, which makes this piece even more fascinating. My captivation goes for the crucifix’s aesthetic as well. It is beautifully crafted, likely out of brass and copper, on both the cross and the representation of Christ.
To read further about Monsignor Hugh Phillips, click the link below…