Art, Beauty and Joy
We have cultivated beauty through leadership, encouragement and support of the fine arts. Many women with natural ability for the arts joined the community and offered their talents to the students and others they encountered in schools and parishes. Along with the required core courses, FSPA taught music, art, drama and appreciation for literature—creating lessons without the aid of text books.
The arts have a way of inspiring a love for learning and creating communities committed to the flourishing of each generation—communities committed to collaboration rather than competition. In an effort to provide a common curriculum for music, FSPA published the “St. Rose Hymnal” and taught generations of students four-part harmony. There seemed to be nothing that would stop the community from glorifying God through the arts.
How have the fine arts been a part of your life as an FSPA?
Sister Marlene Weisenbeck
My involvement in the fine arts started in the first grade, as I was educated by FSPA throughout my grammar, high school and college years. FSPA had written music curriculum, which was taught in all the grades. At age six I was singing and reading music on a daily basis, learning about sharps and flats. By grade four I could sing the “Dies Irae” from the Latin Requiem Mass by heart because we were taught to sing all the parts of the Mass early in grade school.
In grade six I began to take piano lessons and a couple of years later organ and trumpet lessons, also taught by an FSPA who was probably one of the most influential people in the development of my vocation (though we never talked about that). By grade seven I was playing organ for daily Mass and marching in the high school band.
When I joined FSPA, my desire to study music was solid. I loved learning to play as many instruments as possible during my college years. I earned a baccalaureate degree in music education at Viterbo College. After four years of teaching music in elementary and high schools staffed by FSPA, I earned a master’s degree in piano performance and soon thereafter served as a faculty member in the Viterbo music department. I became the department chairperson during my 18-year tenure there.
My doctoral studies took me in other directions, but still prompted by beauty and an inner song, I earned a doctoral minor in art history. The arts have always been an impetus for the way I approach my ministry throughout life. Their spiritual essence helps me to hear and see reality through a lens of beauty that is part of God’s ongoing revelation. Even today I still love to sing and do so as a cantor and member of my community’s schola. I can say that the fine arts have been an integral part of my life for the whole of it.
Sister Karen Kappell
Being an artist isn’t something I could file away when I decided to be an FSPA. It was important that I felt the arts were valued in community and that I could continue as an artist. Through the years I have not been disappointed, and have encouraged many to get in touch with deeper meaning in their lives by finding the arts as means to express themselves. I do this while I am on staff at one of our three spiritualty centers, Marywood. I also have been encouraged and supported in producing and selling art which finds a place in a home, business, clinic or other places. Hopefully it brings a sense of beauty to the environment. I have been invited to contribute art for community gatherings, brochures and publications. Because art is a creative process and intuitive, it affects the way I work in other areas of life and I find this helpful in serving in my current ministry of leadership. These have been some ways I have used the gifts that I’ve been given. Through the years I have come to a closer realization of the close fit between serving as an artist and religious sister—and the value of the call to this life and community.
Sister Laura NettlesThe arts provide a variety of lenses through which we come to see the dignity inherent in all of creation and provides a glimpse of the divine artist. The arts, music in particular, have always fed my soul. Music, whether listening or performing, is where I find beauty, peace and healing. More importantly, it is where I encounter the divine.
Like Moses and the Burning Bush, God speaks to me through music. I am blessed to be part of a religious community that actively supports my love of music and enthusiastically encourages my membership in various musical groups. Even better, my own spiritual journey has been enriched beyond measure by the artistic creativity of our sisters. Though we are diverse in many ways, the arts have become, for FSPA, a profound medium through which we share our humanity. And our souls are continually nourished. “… the arts have been an inseparable part of the human journey; indeed, we depend on the arts to carry us toward the fullness of our humanity." - National Standards for Art Education
Sister Betty Bradley
Sister Betty Bradley currently serves the ministry of artistry. Sister Betty’s art (pictured above) and story shows how God uses our natural gifts and talents to lead us into the mission fields. The canvas of her life is filled with all the ways her ministerial positions have flowed with creativity. She has found ways to continue the FSPA fine arts as she brings out the best in all those she meets.
Q: How did your vocation lead you to become an artist?
Throughout my eight years of grade school at St. Ann’s in Spokane, Washington, having been taught by the Franciscan Sisters of Perpetual Adoration, we had art class every Friday afternoon. This was where I began to love the gift of creativity and artistic expression.
Q: How is art a part of your spiritual practice?
To me, art is very meditative. When creating art, I believe God and I are playing together. God is our greatest creator. With God, the creative potential is endless.
Q: What are the various ways you have used your artistic skills in ministry?
When I was teaching in elementary schools and as a religious education director, I always tried to encourage and support creativity. It is such a great gift to behold. I have also enjoyed teaching watercolor classes to adults.
Q: How is being an FSPA part of your journey as an artist?
While I was ministering as associate director for FSPA Incorporation Office, I lived next door to Sister Margaret Ann Schlosser. She taught oil and watercolor classes, so I decided to take watercolor classes. In this process I discovered I had natural talent for watercolor painting, so I decided to pursue additional education. As a Franciscan Sister, my hope is to continue expressing the goodness of God through my art.
Artistic expression continues as a primary ministry of several FSPA members. To learn more about contemporary projects by FSPA members visit www.ruahmedia.org and Sister Betty Bradley Original Watercolors and Religious Icons.