Monday, May 20, 2013

Travels with Franciscan Sisters

A few buildings, tile murals and mosaics on the Franciscan Sisters'
Lourdes campus. Lynda Hoffman, Lifelong Learning (lower left)
 introduces Sister Ann Carmen Barone, art teacher, artist, 
institution builder. I love the depiction of the prayer of St. Francis, 
"Lord make me an instrument of your Peace," in bright tiles (at top). 

It's been art and history week for me, in beautiful settings: A stroll through Historic Woodlawn Cemetery; a Sylvania Historical Society lecture on the Ward M. Canaday Archives at the University of Toledo, our collector's corner for history; and then a powerpoint presentation by Sister Ann Carmen Barone about the fabulous art of the Lourdes college campus created by the Franciscan Sisters, my favorite group of nuns on earth. What a cultural feast! Where am I?
My mind wanders.  As it does these days.  I'm strolling through a quaint Mexican town sparkling with graceful fountains, bright red and yellow flowers, intricate tile work, murals and statuary on every corner. The architecture is delightful: bell towers, graceful archways and loggias, red tiled roofs, richly tiled stairways, ceilings, walls, doors and windows. The sun shines brightly in a cobalt blue sky, bouncing off golden mosaics, blue and white decorative paintings, exquisite stonework and woodwork. The joys of travel.
Franciscan Center, side tiled panels.

But wait! I’m not abroad. I’m right here at home, in Sylvania, Ohio.  I’m on the stunning Spanish-mission style campus of Lourdes University, founded by the brilliant, talented, and peace-loving Franciscan Sisters. They came to teach, to serve, to glorify, from the 1930s to the present.  And I’m listening with almost 100 other seniors to Sister Ann Carmen Barone, who’s been here forever and witnessed the campus’ evolution, tell us about the “Art Treasures of Lourdes,” accompanied by ample photo slides. This beauty is right here in my own backyard!  

The art on this campus was inspired by the first director, the famed Sister Adelaide, a Renaissance woman par excellence. Visionary, thoughtful, compassionate, a lover of nature, music, the humanities, math and science, the world and everything in it, she inspired the growth of the campus until her death in 1964, symbolically on July 4, like our early and enlightened presidents John Adams and Thomas Jefferson. In her day and in her way, Sister Adelaide paid attention to every detail, every building, every walkway, every piece of statuary, every work of art, as Jefferson did at Monticello and the University of Virginia.

But Sister Adelaide’s model for the campus was not classical Greece or Rome, but a Spanish Franciscan mission in California. All the Sisters  who came here were motivated by and shared her vision; they made it happen, tile by tile. Sister Adelaide’s legacy lives on in a lovely natural setting enhanced by beautiful arts and crafts.  The Lourdes campus embodies her spirit, her dream for beauty in the world, for love and peace, for sharing the blessings of the creator of all things and all of us. 
Mural of tiles, front of Franciscan Center.

“It’s been a great life,” Sister Ann tells us, “to feel the energy and beauty of our campus, to share it, to ensure it radiates outward to others, to the community."

"This is our philosophy, the Franciscan philosophy."  Above all, the Franciscan sisters believe "God is love," and that it is his love that shows in every work of art on the campus, as well as in its natural beauty. 

So we traveled with Sister Ann on a virtual tour of Lourdes, from one fabulous building to another, from one beautiful piece of art to another: The Franciscan Center, the Portiuncola Shrine, Our Lady Queen of Peace Chapel, the Duns Scotus Library, the statues of St. Francis with his beloved animals, and other Spanish-style buildings replete with creative decorative features.

After the virtual tour I took an actual walk around the campus.  Always a pleasure.  Always more to see, to feel. And after Sister Ann Carmen's talk I saw more than ever.  Serenity.  Beauty.  Peace.  Love.  They filled up my senses "like a night in the forest, like a fountain in springtime." My mind wandered. The John Denver song carried me home on the wings of a dove surrounded by golden mosaics.      

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