The statue of Our Lady of Charity was installed Sept. 4, 1977, a gift of Cuban-American Catholics. Bishop Edward Boza-Masvidal, an exiled Bishop of Havana, blessed the statue.
Devotion to Our Lady of Charity originated in the 17th century. Then three boys (depicted at the bottom of the statue) were sent to gather salt for the meat fed to the slaves working in the Spanish copper mines near Santiago, Cuba. Returning across the Nipe Bay, the boys encountered a fierce storm that threatened to capsize their boat. Unexpectedly, and without explanation, the waters calmed and the youngsters saw a figure on a piece of wood floating toward them: a statue of Mary holding the Infant Jesus. Inscribed on the float were the words, "I am the Virgin of Charity."
The youths brought the statue back to their village of Barajaguas where a chapel was erected and the image venerated. Ultimately, the statue was taken to the parish in Cobre, where a shrine was built and recognized as Cuba's national sanctuary. Pope John Paul II visited the site during his 1998 pastoral visit to Cuba.
The Archdiocese of Santiago initiated the first inquiry of the statue's mysterious origins in 1688 due to the extraordinary devotion demonstrated by the Cuban people. At the request of the nation's bishops and faithful, Pope Benedict XV proclaimed Our Lady of Charity patroness of Cuba May 10, 1916.
Most Holy Mother of Charity
who came to us as a messenger of peace across the sea.
You are the Mother of all Cubans.
To you we come, Most Holy Mother of God
to honor you with love as your children.
To your motherly heart we entrust our desires and hopes
our work and our prayers.
We pray for our torn country that we may be able to build
a nation based on peace and unity.
We pray for our families
that they may live in fidelity and love.
We pray for our children
that they may grow strong
in spirit and in body.
We pray for our young people
that their faith may increase,
as well as their attachment to the truth.
We pray for the sick, the homeless,
the lonely, the exiled, and for all suffering souls.
We pray for the Catholic Church in Cuba, for its mission,
for its priests, deacons, religious and laity.
We pray for the victory of justice and love in our country.
Mother of Charity!
We place ourselves under your mantle of protection!
Blessed are you among women
and blessed is the fruit of your womb, Jesus!
And to Him be the glory and the power
now and forever. Amen.