COLUMBIA—For years, Theresa Hayes and her late husband Steve ate family dinners off floral-patterned china they bought as newlyweds.
On many of those nights, their son and daughter talked about their daily experiences in class at Cardinal Newman School.
Now, one of those plates is a permanent part of the school’s new building.
Hayes donated it for an ornate mosaic which frames the doors of the Our Lady of Joyful Hope Chapel.
It is one of many keepsakes given by current and former students, faculty and staff members.
“We shared so many meals with that china, and Steve was such a supporter of Cardinal Newman,” said Mrs. Hayes, who serves as the school’s admissions director. “It just means a lot to my family to have it included.”
The mosaic was created by Angel Allen, the visual arts instructor, and several of her students in the school’s art club. It took about 18 months to complete.
Allen has also made mosaics for St. Joseph Church and School in Columbia and was honored when asked to come up with one to decorate the chapel.
The work depicts Our Lady of Joyful Hope, the chapel’s namesake, and the school’s namesake Cardinal John Henry Newman.
Allen included palmetto trees in the background to symbolize South Carolina and the Diocese of Charleston.
Like all mosaics, the piece is made of thousands of small tiles placed into patterns.
From the beginning, Allen knew she didn’t want to use just any materials. She wanted it to reflect the people who cared about the school, so she put out a call for donations.
One family gave several blue tiles from Mexico that had been used in their kitchen. They became part of Our Lady’s veil.
Others, like Hayes, gave smaller items: a JFK pin from the 1960 election, a rhinestone peacock charm, a compass, a metal dollar sign, and more.
Long time faculty members donated symbols of the subjects they love.
Perched in the trunk of a palm tree over the left shoulder of Cardinal Newman is a gold-colored protractor. It was donated by Susan Henry, who has taught geometry for 28 years. She thought it would be fitting to symbolize her work with a tool that students in her classroom use every day.
“It’s not a special one, just a normal one like the ones I keep in my class for the kids all the time,” Henry said. “I thought, what better way to commemorate geometry? I think it’s great they wanted to include us in the mosaic.”
Another panel includes a small metal figurine of the Eiffel tower and some coins from France. These were given by Fred Perry, the school’s French teacher for the past 22 years.
“I’ve taken students to France 13 times since I’ve been here, and those items represent those trips,” Perry said. “I like to think the trips help the students to learn to appreciate the world and the differences in people and places, so I wanted to share that.”
Other pieces, like Hayes’ dish, evoke memories.
Beth Roth, who taught algebra at Cardinal Newman for 15 years, donated a pearl earring that belonged to her late mother, Dorothy Siler.
“My parents knew how much we loved Cardinal Newman because I worked there and both my children are graduates,” Roth said. “They supported the school and I wanted to honor her in the mosaic.”
These items and dozens more wait, nestled among the tiles, to be searched out and admired by those who come to pray.