In September, Morning Star Obstetrics and Gynecology in Gilbert, Ariz., celebrated its 10th anniversary. In the last two years since this pro-life practice run by Dr. Clint Leonard moved into its new facility, he and his wife, Kathryn, wanted it to be a place of welcome, through beauty — starting with art.
Obstetrician-gynecologist Leonard entrusted his practice, which is faithful to the magisterium, to Our Lady when he started it: “I consider that she has protected me through my training and, ever since, in practice as well. She’s a protector for me, but also a great role model for me and for our patients. I wanted to give true honor to her and make it a welcoming place.”
Part of honoring Mary is gracing the office with Marian art. The Leonards, who have three young children, began with a work depicting Our Lady as the Morning Star.
“It’s appropriate because all the darkness in which we live needs the light,” Leonard said. “Mary was able to bear Christ and bring Christ to light the world covered in darkness; now we need a culture upholding and reinforcing the goodness of life, the dignity of man and woman and the goodness of our sexuality.”
Because not all patients are Catholic, the Leonards wanted art that would appeal to everyone “because the good news about sexuality and theology of the body, respecting the dignity of women and the sacredness of life, is important for everyone, not just for Catholics,” he said. “We also wanted to appeal to Our Lady and invoke her protection and guidance as well.”
For the waiting room at Morning Star (MorningStarObGyn.com), they commissioned iconographer Suzanne Kent Debold to paint a large work of Our Lady, Morning Star and sculptor Adam Adcock to craft a steel and aluminum work called Behold.
Suzanne Kent Debold (online at SilentIcon.net) created the life-size icon depicting a woman in the early stages of pregnancy to represent our Blessed Mother. In her icon, Debold explained how the dawn’s orangey-pink lighting on the horizon brings to light to “the whole image the peace of Mary and the peace of the morning — that special time of newness.” Mary “has such a stillness and peace about her.” That light reflects on the woman’s womb, again highlighting the dawn of new life she is carrying.
Debold’s icons flow from her faith. “When I’m painting them, it’s a prayer, a work of life. You hope it touches people.”
Women who come into the office are moved by the Morning Star icon, including Marta Leinberger. “It’s so very reassuring to have the Blessed Mother there,” she said. “The color is very peaceful. It’s simply beautiful. It sets the tone for the care being received and the kind of conversations you can have in the doctor’s office as well.” Leinberger, along with husband Martin, specifically sought out this pro-life practice.
When the Leonards commissioned Adam Adcock (GotSculpture.com), he thought, “This is going to be a really cool opportunity because he [Leonard] is in a field I’m very passionate about.”
As a convert, Adcock was drawn to Catholicism, having seen “how beautiful was the Church’s teaching on sexuality. I saw no other Christian faith cherishing and upholding that tradition of what sacramental marriage is.”
Adcock uses minimal forms: “I wanted it to have a Marian humility because Mary is very important in Dr. Leonard’s practice and faith.”
He said the figure is not too literal, likening it to “an ancient pose of the arm embracing the belly in awe of what’s inside.”
The sculpture now serves as Morning Star’s logo.
Looking for a multigenerational piece, the Leonards were surprised when they received an original painting. Called Sabiduria y Esperanza (Wisdom and Hope), it depicts a grandmother with her granddaughter.
“The older woman and the child speak to the dignity of women,” Leonard said, recounting that it was painted by a woman when she was going through the grief of a miscarriage. “It captures women of all ages. And the grandmother is wearing a scapular, so it also speaks to faith and how grandparents can pass on to their grandchildren the faith.”
In addition, all of the practice’s rooms have Catholic art prominently featuring Our Lady.
During Morning Star’s eighth anniversary, Bishop Thomas Olmsted of Phoenix blessed the brand-new facility on the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception.
“I think the art shows he cares for the whole person,” Bishop Olmsted said of Leonard and the practice. “He understands not only the importance of truth, but beauty and goodness. It points to the dignity of every person, but it also points to the mystery of God as well. For people who go there, it’s a great encouragement for their faith, as well as in facing the challenges of daily life.”
Bishop Olmsted called Leonard “a great, great blessing to us and our diocese.” The bishop hired Leonard’s mother, Judith, to be in charge of pro-life natural family planning for the Diocese of Wichita, Kan., when he was there.
“I was praying and praying he [Leonard] would come here to start his practice,” Bishop Olmsted said. “He’s a man of very solid Catholic faith who seeks to integrate both his faith and his profession knowledge.”
In upholding the sacredness of life, Leonard prays quietly for help, and “sometimes we do that out loud with patients,” he said.
Even Morning Star’s logo helps. “Not everybody is Catholic or practicing Christians, but this is a very nice, subtle way to communicate the gospel of life,” Leinberger said. She gives out the business cards to people she knows. When they ask about the logo, she said, “You present the image first, you think of Christmas and then work backward to Our Lady. The artwork will open people’s eyes.”
“We’re definitely trying to help people to be holy and live a good life,” Leonard affirmed of the practice’s pro-life approach to health and healing. “Hopefully, we’re drawing people closer to Christ, which is what Mary wants us to do.”
Joseph Pronechen is the
Register’s staff writer.
Bishop Olmsted shown with Leonard family.
Courtesy of Kevin Theriault & The Catholic Sun