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St. James bust to be on display in Sewickley school

| Wednesday, Feb. 6, 2013, 9:03 p.m.
Surrounding the statue of St. James the Greater are, from left, Gloria Berry, statue creator Dr. George Berry, the Rev. Thomas Burke and Sister Christy Hill at St. James Church in Sewickley. Submitted
Dr. George Berry of Edgeworth created a statue of St. James the Greater for the 100th anniversary of St. James School. Submitted

St. James the Greater has come to Sewickley at exactly the right time — in celebration of St. James School's milestone anniversary and Catholic Schools Week.

It was two years in the making, but a bust of the patron saint and the namesake of St. James Church and School soon will be on display in a prominent location at the school, said the Rev. Tom Burke.

The sculptor, Dr. George Berry of Edgeworth, along with his wife, Gloria, and their son, Bill, presented the statue to Burke and Sister Christy Hill, school principal, last week following a special Mass to celebrate the school's 100th anniversary.

St. James is called “the Greater” to distinguish him from the other apostle, also named James, Burke said. St. James preached the Gospel in Spain and then returned to Jerusalem, where he was martyred. He is the patron saint of laborers and pharmacists.

The Rev. James Reid, the church's first pastor, named the parish after the patron saint.

“I was very honored that George made the sculpture for the school in celebrating its 100th anniversary,” Burke said.

He saw the unfinished project at the Berrys' house in Edgeworth a few months ago and was impressed with it.

“He is very gifted. He also made a statue of the head of Christ that is in our church up front near our children's chapel.”

George Berry said the idea for the St. James the Greater bust came from the Rev. Matthew Tosello, the retired priest in residence at St. James who recently presented a lecture on St. James the Greater to St. James students.

“When he found out I sculpt, he approached me and said St. James needed a statue of St. James,” George said.

“We decided that with celebrating Catholic Schools Week that this would be a good time for George to present it to the school,” Burke said.

The bust weighs 45 pounds and is 18 inches high.

“At first I was going to do an life-size figure, but that was a bigger task than I could image, so I did a bust instead,” George said.

To get a better idea of what St. James might have looked like, Berry said he “delved into” some books and came up with an image of the Shroud of Turin, a linen cloth bearing the image of who many believe is Jesus.

“St. James was one of the apostles of Jesus, and it gave me an idea of what a person would have looked like back then,” he said.

The head is made of terra-cotta, and the books placed underneath the bust are a high level of plaster of Paris. He named the top book St. James the Greater and the bottom book is the Bible.

“I couldn't decide at first what the middle book should be, so I decided on “1913. Excellent Minds. Excellent Hearts. 2013,” which is the school's motto,” he said.

The entire sculpture, which took about 100 hours to complete over the course of two years, then was painted with a bronze-like paint and a wax to look like a bronze sculpture.

George began sculpting after he retired in 1990 and took some classes at Sweetwater Center for the Arts in Sewickley. He has completed about 70 projects over the years, some which are displayed at his home, including busts of himself, Gloria, his sons and three grandsons. He also has done several sculptures of giraffes, one of his favorite subjects.

Gloria Berry said the couple has a long history — three generations worth — with the church and school.

Her aunt, Geraldine Cunningham, who died in July last year, attended from the school in the 1920s. Gloria graduated in the 1940s, and her and George's sons, William G. Berry and George J. Berry III, attended in the late 1960s and early ‘70s.

Gloria, who grew up in the area, and her husband, originally from New York, married 55 years ago, and have been members of the parish for many years.

Joanne Barron is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-324-1406 or

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