Goodhart statue honors Little Rose Ferron

Goodhart statue honors Little Rose Ferron

Sculptor Ed Goodhart captures the face of Marie Rose Ferron in his latest work. (Breeze photos by Charles Lawrence)

NORTH PROVIDENCE – Ed Goodhart’s latest statue started out as a 5,700-pound piece of solid oak tree but is now a 700-pound depiction of one of Woonsocket’s most famous residents, Little Rose Ferron.

Goodhart, whose sculptures of famous Catholic figures have made their way to destinations all over the area, said he put 629 hours into the statue, which will now move to the Rose Ferron Foundation of Rhode Island Museum & Domestic Chapel at 339 Arnold St. in Woonsocket.

As usual, Goodhart is taking no money for the long hours of tedious work, instead spending some $1,500 of his own money on materials for the project. He said he’s happy with how the 7-foot statue came out, with Little Rose standing atop a rose and blood coming from her hands and turning the rose red.

The Breeze reported back in 2017 on Goodhart’s sculpture of Brother André Bessette, his great-great-uncle and French-Canadian saint who was canonized in 2010. That statue was donated to St. Joseph’s Oratory in Montreal.

Goodhart, a parishioner at St. Anthony Church in North Providence and a retired boilermaker who’s found sculpture art as a retirement hobby, said he began getting to know Little Rose’s story after learning that Bessette had once met her and was one of the first to bring recognition to her in believing that she should be a saint. Little Rose is a figure regarded by many as a mystic and stigmatic who received the wounds of Christ.

“I’m just bringing a little attention to her,” said Goodhart, adding that he’s hopeful that sainthood would bring greater attention to little Rhode Island.

He said he got a visit from Little Rose Museum proprietor and Little Rose Foundation President David Ethier several weeks ago for a final inspection before it moves to the museum space. Adding to the difficulty with this piece, said Goodhart, was that there was little known about Little Rose’s height and weight. What is known is that she was largely bedridden, he said, “crippled for no reason at all” and developing the wounds of Christ.

“After all the research I did, I really think she should be a saint as well,” he said. While Bessette was sainted after a few decades, he said, he understands that sainthood can often take hundreds of years.

The Breeze reported in 2018 on the new Little Rose space at 339 Arnold St. in Woonsocket, an effort aimed at returning Little Rose artifacts to the city. Goodhart said he’s proud that his statue will be part of a permanent museum space there when it opens.

Ethier said three years ago that the new space, located at the site of the former Jerry’s Cafe, will house the mementos of Little Rose’s life, including the clothing and belongings that have been maintained by local family members and members of the organization since Little Rose’s death in 1936. The site will also serve as a place where those devoted to her memory can come to pray and host retreats and other events.

Goodhart said it’s difficult to get a tree as large as the one he needed for this work, and he was eventually able to buy the one he needed from Above & Beyond Tree Service of Smithfield. At a great price, he also bought a second one.

The carving process started with a chain saw to cut away large chunks, and knowing that he couldn’t work with a gas chain saw on a daily basis with neighbors so close by and home during the day, he used an electric one, which burned out. Other tools, many of which broke along the way, included a power carver, chisels, Dremels and others.

Even at the old $10 minimum wage, Goodhart said he would have been paid $6,300 for this work if he’d charged for it, but he said he’s happy to do it for the Catholic church.

Little Rose Ferron was born in 1902 to a French-speaking Quebec family who immigrated to Fall River, Mass., before moving to Woonsocket. When she was young, she was known by her family to have mystical experiences, and later began experiencing visions of St. Anthony and the child Jesus, according to those devoted to her memory. Bedridden and in ill health for much of her life, she experienced regular bleeding interpreted by many as the stigmata, the wounds of Christ, a suffering followers say she undertook voluntarily on behalf of the Catholic Church and the residents of the primarily Catholic city.

Among those who cared for Little Rose during her suffering was Rose Myette, her cousin. Myette was 17 years old when Little Rose first instructed her to build a chapel in her home and gave specific directions on the artwork and furniture that should adorn the space. For close to 70 years, Myette worked in secret at her home in Glendale, creating a tribute to her cousin’s memory. It wasn’t until Little Rose’s sister, Flora, died in 2002 that she unveiled it to the public and invited Ethier and his wife, Denise, whom she had met several years earlier, to see the space.

After Myette died in 2013 at the age of 102, the artifacts and mementos were passed to the Ethiers and others devoted to Little Rose’s memory, who vowed to build a new prayer space in honor of Little Rose’s life. In 2015, they formed the Little Rose Foundation, and in September 2017, they purchased the Arnold Street property for $91,000 with plans to renovate it.

-With previous reporting from Lauren Clem

Ed Goodhart, of North Providence, stands next to the wooden stature he carved of Marie Rose Ferron. Ferron was a Roman Catholic mystic and stigmatist that some think should be canonized. She was born in Quebec in 1902. Her family moved to Fall River, Mass. in 1906 and then to Woonsocket in 1925. The statue is destined for the Marie Rose Ferron Museum in Woonsocket.

Comments

Well done, sir! What a great tribute he has created and I'm sure that we all will enjoy this work of art for decades to come.