Mission Members' Talents Turn Dark Into Light in Georgia

By Bev Cleveland

Artists Kadee Dasher (right) and Socorro DeLoach pose in front of the mural they helped create for Glenmary's Glennville, Ga. mission.

How do you turn dark to light? Picture this. A woman from Germany, a woman from Mexico and a woman from New York working together in South Georgia, turning the dark of a church wall into an image of hope and light. With creativity, paint and brush, they created the mural that now graces the wall behind the altar at Glenmary's St. Jude Mission in Glennville, Ga.

The art project began, as Glenmary Father Brian LaBurt, pastor of St. Jude, explains, when "we had to rethink the heating and air conditioning system...." As a result of that rethinking, a large, unsightly vent was added to the dark paneled wall behind the altar.

The inside of the church was cooler, but with the addition of the vent, the darkness seemed more noticeable than before.

Enter Kadee (Karin) Dasher, an artist, mother of five, and a parishioner of St. Jude. Born in Germany, Kadee has lived in Glennville for eight years.

Kadee was always concerned about the drab, claustrophobic effect of the dark paneling, but once the vent appeared, she knew "something needed to be done." She discussed the problem with her friend Ginger Olansen, a professional artist, who was visiting from New York.

At the next Parish Council meeting, Kadee explained to Father Brian and the committee that Ginger could "hide the vent" by creating a mural. The entire parish voted on the proposal, and Ginger volunteered her time and talents (asking only for some help and her plane fare) to the mission community.

Kadee enlisted the help of her good friend and fellow artist and parishioner, Socorro DeLoach. Born in Mexico, Socorro has lived in Glennville for 18 years.

Kadee and Socorro poured over art books for subject matter. Eventually, Socorro made samples of possible scenes which were then voted on by every parishioner. The scene incorporates an existing wood crucifix into a scene which includes Mary and John looking at Jesus on the cross. With the mission community's support (parishioners brought in food and drink, donated buckets, brushes, tarps and more), work began in September 2001

The dark paneled walls were spackled, sanded, primed and then painted white. From there, Kadee, Ginger and Socorro worked together to create the scene of Mary and John (painted by Socorro)

As Kadee says, "We all painted together, but everybody had their own talent. We learned a lot from each other."

Ginger painted the overall scene, even "hiding" the thermostat in a tree. She says she isn't "a real church-going person," but adds that she volunteered because "it just was one of those things...it was a challenge...and it just touched me."

Kadee, pregnant at the time, stenciled the columns and arches that are designed to appear as a temple. The parishioners of St. Jude, are in effect, "inside" the "temple" looking out on the scene of Mary and John and Jesus on the cross.

On Oct. 7, Father Brian blessed the mural. A card of thanks, signed by every parishioner, was presented to Ginger. "The whole congregation just brought tears to my eyes with their love and warmth," she says.

All three artists credit Father Brian's enthusiastic support. Kadee says, "He was 100 percent behind us-he's just been an angel." As Father Brian explains, St. Jude is a multicultural parish (100 or more parishioners) whose "clear majority is Mexican." Through the mural project, parishioners came together to work, volunteer and help out, all for the greater good of the parish. This parish experience can promote growth and openness in the mission community, Father Brian says, as people work together. And, in this case, the end result also adds beauty to the mission church.

"When you walk into the church now, you look straight ahead and see the mural," says Kadee. "We definitely brightened it up...and the space looks much larger."

"It's kind of nice to be needed and feel you can help out," Kadee says. "I think the dark was a very good thing that happened. God brought everything together. God worked it out."

The following story first appeared in the May 2002 Boost-A-Month Club newsletter.