The Artwork at St. Catherine of Alexandria
The Catholic Church has always been known for being tremendous benefactors of the arts. St. Catherine Church holds true to that reputation even to this day with the beautiful art that is housed in our church.
Ceiling Artwork in the Gathering Area
St. Catherine’s began as an Irish parish. There was a time when poor Irish immigrants could not read or write. This is true of the Church throughout the world, particularly during the Middle Ages. The Pope, Cardinals, Bishops and Priests were educated, but the general public wasn’t able to read the stories of the bible, so instead the Church used stained glass windows and paintings in churches to illustrate these stories. We are blessed to have a set of ceiling paintings at St. Catherine’s illustrating various bible stories.
These paintings are probably almost as old as the church building. They were done on canvas and then glued to the ceiling. Despite all efforts to research the name of the artist, no record seems to exist.
Over almost two months in 2011, our ceiling paintings were meticulously and carefully cleaned, and then covered with a light gloss finish to seal and protect them.
Looking at the ceiling, facing the Blessed Sacrament Chapel, in the upper right hand corner, you will see the story of Genesis 3: 20-24 depicted with Adam and Eve being banished from the Garden of Eden after Eve had given Adam fruit of the tree from which God had forbidden them to eat.
Looking to the left, you’ll see a beautiful depiction of the Nativity of Jesus Christ and the visitation of the Shepherds (Luke 2: 15-20). This painting is darker, but the halo around the head of the infant Christ is bright, signifying the Light of the World. The shepherds kneel in awe and wonder at the humble and lowly birth of a Savior, while Joseph and the Virgin Mary look on.
Looking at the center right painting, you will see the story of Palm Sunday (Matthew 21: 1-11) when Jesus rode a donkey, the humblest of animals, into the city of Jerusalem, and where the people laid palm branches in his path singing “Hosanna to the Son of David”. What is most interesting about this painting is that is was never finished. You can see that some of the faces are not complete, and neither are some of the depictions of the animals. When the ceiling artwork was restored in 2011, the decision was made not to complete this painting, leaving intact the history of the work. The story is still completely told, even though it is not a completed artistic work.
Looking to the left center, you will see Jesus standing near a little girl with a wreath of flowers on her head and a woman holding a baby, a servant with a sword and a man named Jarius. The Gospel of Mark (Mark 5:35-43) tells the story of Jesus raising the sickly daughter of Jarius back to life, and also the story of the healing of the woman with hemorrhages that had lasted twelve years. As she touched the cloak of Jesus the flow stopped immediately. Her faith healed her.
The painting near the balcony on the right is the wonderful parable of the Prodigal Son (Luke 15: 11-32), the boy who took all his inheritance and spent it, but came home when he had nothing left. He wanted to be a servant to his father, but his father rejoiced when the boy returned home, saying, “My son who was lost has been found! Kill the fatted calf, put a robe on him and rings on his fingers! Let us celebrate, for my son who was dead has come back to life.”
The painting on the left is the story of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10: 30-37). A man fell victim to robbers who beat him and left him for dead. A priest and a Levite passed him by and did not help him, but a Samaritan, of all people, stopped and cared for him. In those days, Samaritans and Jews had nothing to do with each other. Jesus asked, “Who was the neighbor?” The people listening to the parable said, “The one who treated him with mercy.” And Jesus said, “Go and do likewise.”
Painting of St. Catherine of Alexandria
The painting you see in the loft of the Gathering Area was done by a priest from the Diocese of Madison, Wisconsin. Fr. Gary Wankerl is pastor of Holy Mother of Consolation in Oregon, Wisconsin. He is a very good friend of Steve Johnson and Bill Frederick. He was commissioned to paint St. Catherine of Alexandria for the 160th anniversary celebration of the parish. It was Fr. Gary’s first painting for a Catholic parish in the Archdiocese of Milwaukee.
High Altar Painting of the Resurrected Christ
We also have another work of art by Fr. Gary Wankerl that is used during the seven weeks of Easter on the high altar, in place of the crucifix that normal hangs there. It is a rendition of Carl Bloch’s “Resurrection of Christ”. It was commissioned by the Dick and Karen Bertrand Family and used for the first time during the Easter Season of 2012.
Cross of the Resurrected Christ
A cross, created by the monks at the Orthodox Byzantine Monastery of St. Isaac Skeete, in Boscobel, Wisconsin, was given anonymously in honor of Fr. Dave Verhasselt, and hangs in the Gathering Area.