WCR PHOTO | CHRIS MILLER
Marilyn Hodysh displays a photo of her painting of a chalice, patent and ciborium.
About six years ago a photo taken by a Crosier priest appeared in the pages of the Western Catholic Reporter. The image caught the attention of Marilyn Hodysh, an avid WCR reader, longtime schoolteacher and a member of St. John the Evangelist Parish.
Shown in the photo were a chalice, paten and ciborium. The image of the vessels, as well as the details in the reflections, appealed to her. An Anglican until she was 23, she converted to Catholicism soon after she met her husband, Henry.
"The reality is that Anglicans and Catholics believe exactly the same things in their belief in the real presence of Christ. Because of that, becoming a Catholic wasn't very difficult for me at all. I've been a Catholic for 45 years now. For me, this photo represented the real presence of Jesus," said Hodysh.
She was unfamiliar with the Crosiers. She learned that the men's order recognizes the suffering and pain in the world, but also believes the resurrection of Jesus guarantees that in the suffering and pain there is hope and healing. The Crosiers emphasize the glorious or triumphant cross.
Burned out from 30 years of teaching and after a cancer diagnosis, Hodysh had turned to oil painting as a form of therapy in 1994. She contacted the Crosiers, seeking their permission to paint the image.
"Painting has been really important to me, and I have been healed by painting. It's been a gift from God," she said.
The photographer was Father Gene Plaisted, a Crosier from Onamia, Minn., who helps fund the Crosiers by selling his photos of various religious symbols.
Plaisted sent her a handwritten reply giving her permission to paint his photo.
Overjoyed, Hodysh started working on the painting. She asked Father Shayne Craig, then the rector of St. Joseph Seminary, if he would accept the painting, upon its completion, as a gift to the seminary.
"Painting for a seminary, it was all about awe and focus on the real presence of Jesus. The focus was not on the objects themselves but on his real presence. I tried to make it as holy as possible," said Hodysh.
She began the painting in July 2011. Normally she would take about three months to complete a painting, but this one took considerably longer because severe complications with Henry's health interrupted the project.
Henry, a university professor, was pleased that she was working on this project for the seminary. But not long into the process, he became ill.
It was a stressful time for Hodysh, and her project was put on hold. Her husband was diagnosed with a bad infection, and was hospitalized for nine weeks.
The doctors discovered that he had a hole in his heart, which they presumed had been there since birth. He suffered a stroke and had a tracheotomy, which left him unable to speak for the last seven weeks of his life. He died, and his funeral was held Nov. 2, 2011.
In the weeks following Henry's death, Hodysh returned to working on the painting.
"The painting was something that God gave to me during this period of sadness. I am glad my husband supported it. It was something from both of us," said Hodysh.
Not wanting a "cold picture," she suppressed the whites and blues from the original photo, striving for a warmth, stillness and peace. The finished painting has a lot of browns and darker hues.
"I mixed and matched the things that I wanted to focus on, so that the host would be the centre of focus. Although it would be much brighter, everything had to be toned down so that the focus would always remain on the host," she said.
One year after her husband's funeral, she contacted Father Stephen Hero, rector at St. Joseph Seminary, and told him that the painting was complete.
At 32 by 30 inches, the painting is the largest she has ever done. It will soon be displayed in the seminary's upstairs priests' lounge.