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Benedictine Living Community unveils stained glass windows

Going from window to window, Merry Wallin pulled down sheets Wednesday to reveal four stained-glass windows depicting a sunrise over a waterfall. Once they were unveiled, Father Brian Schultz raised his hand and blessed each window, created by Du...

T04.12.2017 -- Steve Kuchera -- 041317.N.DNT.WindowsC1 -- Chaplin Liz Liebenstien (left) and spiritual care coordinator Deborah Jackson speak during Wednesday’s blessing of four new stained-glass windows in Benedictine Living Community of Duluth’s chapel. In the background are four of the 11 windows that will receive stained glass in the future. Steve Kuchera / skuchera@duluthnews.com
Chaplin Liz Liebenstien (left) and spiritual care coordinator Deborah Jackson speak during Wednesday’s blessing of four new stained-glass windows in Benedictine Living Community of Duluth’s chapel. In the background are four of the 11 windows that will receive stained glass in the future. Steve Kuchera / skuchera@duluthnews.com
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Going from window to window, Merry Wallin pulled down sheets Wednesday to reveal four stained-glass windows depicting a sunrise over a waterfall. Once they were unveiled, Father Brian Schultz raised his hand and blessed each window, created by Duluth artists Barb and Jim Collette.

They are the first in what will be a set of 11 windows in the new chapel at the Benedictine Living Community of Duluth. Once completed, the windows will depict a river flowing from the waterfall to the Tree of Life in spring on one side - representing a new beginning - and in autumn on the other side, representing letting go and accepting the impermanence of things, according to Wallin, the Benedictine Living Community's foundation development director.

"Water, the only symbol shared by every world religion, is used ritually to cleanse, purify and sanctify," Wallin wrote in a description of the design.

In total, the 11 windows include 3,600 pieces of glass and 20 colors in 181 square feet of stained glass, according to Wallin.

The colors were chosen because "some colors you'll see in water with different lights," Jim Collette said.

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Photo by Steve Kuchera

A crowd gathered at the chapel Wednesday afternoon for a ceremony that included prayers and hymns in addition to the blessing of the windows. The windows are being funded by donations, and the next set is expected to be installed in a few months. Barb Collette said she and her husband are excited for the completion of all 11 windows, and they're humbled to have their stained glass be a part of the community.

"We're very blessed and very, very grateful that it's going to be here longer than we'll be here. We're very happy about that. I'm more happy when I see the people's faces when they see it because then I know it's all OK," Barb said.

The chapel was remodeled in 2015 to be more centrally located at the living community, located on the College of St. Scholastica campus. Faux stained glass was installed to cut down on the distractions from the parking lot outside the chapel and a committee was formed in August to decide on the design and concept of the permanent stained-glass windows.

"We determined that this space here is used by all faiths. We have daily Mass as well as Protestant services and we also we use it for special award programs. This has become a space where a lot of people come and so ... the theme of water runs through the windows," Wallin said. "It took a variety of people with a variety of skills in a variety of history and spirituality. We were very pleased to have some very sage knowledge and some very defined ideas that helped us bring it together."

The committee was also interested in incorporating design elements from Sister Mary Charles, whose designs can be seen throughout the Benedictine Monastery and living community. The Collettes knew Charles from a previous stained-glass project.

The Collettes have been stained-glass artists for 30 years and operate Stained Glass by Collette in their home studio. Barb explained that the committee had an idea of what they wanted and then she and Jim put it together in stained-glass form.

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"It's a fun artform. Anybody can do it. It's just a lot of fun," Barb said. "We really love doing it together. That's a blessing; I get to do it with my soulmate."

Related Topics: ART
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