As designed by Carl M. Neuhausen, the architect of the Cathedral of the Madeleine, the baptistry was a separate room to the east of the main entrance to the Cathedral in which people both literally and symbolically "outside" the Church were baptized and then brought inside. Later, a baptismal font was installed inside the Cathedral proper, in the east transept in front of the St. Joseph chapel, and during the renovation of the early 1990s under Bishop Weigand, the present font was installed in the rear of the Cathedral. That meant that the old baptistry was available for a new function. As part of the renovation this was redesignated the Magdalen Room with installation of a statue of St. Mary Magdalen created in the 1940s by Canadian artist Gordon Newby, and two racks of votive candles. To the original eight stained glass windows were added two "Vatican II" windows commemorating the ecumenical movement and the Church's commitment to dialogue with the modern world as set forth in the Council document "Lumen Gentium."
Several years after completion of the renovation, a Madonna and Child statue of Portugese rose marble carved in Italy in 1958 by Mormon sculptor Avard Fairbanks was donated by his son, Dr. Grant R. Fairbanks. Avard Fairbanks was one of Utah's greatest artists, and a sculptor with an international reputation. One of his favorite subjects was the madonna and child, probably because his own mother died when he was an infant. The Portugese rose marble was chosen because it has a natural hue similar to human skin. An interesting feature of this Madonna is that she was rendered as a Mormon pioneer woman, with gnarly hands.
In 1975 Fairbanks gave the statue to his son, who displayed it in the main hall of his home. Monsignor William H. McDougall, who was rector of the Cathedral at the time, viewed the statue in Dr. Fairbanks's home and expressed an interest in acquiring it. After the Cathedral renovation made a place available where the statue could be displayed, Dr. Fairbanks, in a fine ecumenical gesture, donated it. Though a Mormon, Avard Fairbanks seems to have had an accurate understanding of the role that art plays in Catholic churches. "The hope of the world lies in our faith and in our spiritual ideals," he wrote. "Such ideals we express in material form." With the installation of the Fairbanks statue, the room was renamed the Our Lady of Zion chapel.