Nuns show art and explain the stories behind it

GREEN BAY – “I’m glad you’re seated. I tend to get a little long-winded.”

Sister Rehrauer says when Sisters of St. Francis of the Holy Cross began building its new convent eight years ago, near the shores of Green Bay, it needed something different.

“We wanted something that would be unique to us and part of our spiritual heritage,” Sister Rehrauer said to a group of people sitting in the convent’s chapel.

Not a simple statue in a room.

Catholic convents are not the first place you might think of visiting for one-of-a-kind pieces of art. But that’s just what Green Bay’s Franciscan Order of Nuns showed off today.

In 2005, the order commissioned an artist to create 12 glass mosaics. The art – and stories behind them – are now being revealed to the public.

“We wanted something that would permeate the whole building and the grounds,” said Sister Rehrauer. “So that wherever we walk, we’re reminded of who we are.”

Glass mosaics based on Franciscans’ symbolism-heavy values are now scattered throughout the retirement home and grounds.

“How much did something like this cost?” FOX 11’s Bill Miston asked Sister Laura Zeltner, the order’s vocation director.

“I have no idea – I have no idea,” she said smiling. “But you know, for me – it’s priceless.”

Sister Zeltner says having the nuns explain the artwork to the public is like a pilgrimage of sorts and a fitting way to end National Catholic Sisters week.

“It’s about love for creation, it’s about love for color, it’s about love for simplicity, because (the mosaics) are pretty simple as well.”

They depict wind, water, fire, earth; the sun, moon and stars – those who pardon, and values like contemplation and poverty.

As well as one that follows us all.

“This is the body of death, being held in the hand of God,” said Sister Charlene Hockers to a group of visitors.

Sister Hockers says explaining her station – Sister Bodily Death – comes with a heavy heart.

“Every sister that has ever lived with us – and has died – are recorded in this book,” she said, touching it lightly. “But still, it’s the good memories of these people who have died in the past.”

The sisters say the unique pieces of art tie in with how they live their lives, every day. Visitors say it helps them have a better understanding of their own lives.

“It brings you closer to who you are and close to just being a human being,” said John Smits of De Pere.

And how beautiful life can be.

More than 300 people turned out for the art open house. The convent has held an open house only once before – when the new building opened in 2006.

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