The Black Madonna is a three-foot bronze of the Virgin Mary with the Christ child, commissioned by Holy Cross Church in Austin, Texas. Predominantly an African-American congregation, the people of Holy Cross wanted the sculpture to have African-American features. The sculpture is located in the church's new grotto patio where parishioners mingle before and after services.
Thomas began the sculpture from a series of photographs of a woman and child selected by the Holy Cross Church as the models. The original clay was completed and the church priest, Fr. Isadore Ndagizimana and a church committee approved it with some minor alterations. Thomas, in addition to using live models, likes to have the commissioners approve the clay original before casting to make certain everyone is satisfied with the sculpture. A multiple patina was placed on the sculpture using blacks for the hair, rust reds for the skin tones and bone white for the clothing.
While researching the history of Black Madonnas, Thomas was impressed to find that the history includes shrines throughout the Mediterranean and Europe, including a wooden icon of The Black Madonna, reputed to have been painted by St. Luke the Evangelist on a piece of cypress wood used by Mary in Nazareth. This painting of The Virgin Mary, reputed to have belonged to The Holy Family during the time of Christ, is said to have been brought from Jerusalem around 1384 and installed in the 14th Century Jasna Gora Monastery, located in Czestochowa, Poland.
The Black Madonna is much more widely known in Europe and Asia than in the United States. Retired Bishop John McCarthy of the Austin, Texas Catholic Diocese and one of his benefactors asked if Thomas, himself a life-long Catholic, would consider sculpting a bronze Black Madonna for a newly renovated East Austin church. Upon researching the subject, Thomas was surprised to find 26,000+ Internet sites on The Black Madonna.