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Mary's Biography

Although I was born in Lima, Ohio, I spent most of my life in Indiana. I grew up in the middle of six brothers; a family of church-going, hard-working Methodists. God was a part of our family life throughout my childhood, and as years passed, I wanted to know how to pray.

I was nine when my mother taught me to draw portraits, and my father encouraged me to realize that God gave me artistic abilities. God has sent many people to inspire me in my creativity. When I was sixteen, I learned I could create anything if God was at my side. My family had asked me to paint an oil portrait of my deceased grandfather, although I had never used oils, nor painted portraits. Amazingly, the painting captured the twinkle of my grandfather's eyes. When I handed the painting to my grandmother, tears ran down her face. From that point on, I knew I wanted to give myself to the creative process because it brought joy to my heart to comfort my grandmother.
Then in my twenties, my grandmother asked me to create a picture of Calvary to hang at a local nursing home, where she volunteered. Busy with college, I swiftly scribbled a drawing of the three crosses silhouetted against the hills. Little did I know the impact this drawing would have on so many people. Many suggest that an image of Christ appears subtly in the cloud above the middle cross. My hand was being guided by the Holy Spirit. Divine intervention had definitely played a part: I didn't plan the outcome; it was God's plan!

About that time, God sent me a wonderful man, John Hilger. I always called him my "rock." John had big shoulders with a gentle heart. He had always encouraged me to use God's gifts. I attended the Catholic Church with John and fell in love with its symbolism and ritual  and converted at 22. My deep conversion came much later. John and I married after five years of dating in 1976. We had six daughters: Jennifer, Maryann, Sally, Kathleen, Michelle and Laura.

Our life was a whirlwind! I taught art before and after our children were born, and have been teaching ever since. I loved it, because art can be a tool to build self-esteem, especially those who struggle in school or in their family.  

If teaching  and family did not keep me busy enough, I helped my husband with our own market, farm, and restaurant. Occasionally I would sing at church or volunteer at the parish. Our family sang together at fairs and contests during the 80's. I dabbled with my art, but found little time to express myself. I was trying to survive being mother, wife, and teacher. Where was God in all this madness?

Several tragic events brought me back to reality. My life stood still when my mother was killed in an auto accident in 1984. I realized I was too busy and I tried to slow down. But, then we built a restaurant which demanded long hours besides professional and family duties. In 1989, I developed nodules on my vocal chords, requiring a year of voice therapy. For three months I taught without talking. Was God trying to tell me something?

In the Fall of 1992, I drove my car into a twenty-foot ditch, yet miraculously walked away without a scratch. Then I knew God was not finished with me! I needed to slow my pace! 

At last, in 1993, I experienced a deep conversion of my faith. I began to travel to retreats and spiritual pilgrimages, rekindling my faith. My prayer became more contemplative, arising from the depths of my soul. After years of a busy life, I finally learned to find God in the silence, and sought a quiet place to be with God daily.

My pilgrimages took me to places around the country and the world. In many situations God provided for these trips. I always returned revitalized and on fire! However I had to learn that the measure of true faith in Jesus does not happen in those mountain-top highs, but in the deserts and deep valleys of daily life. My husband and I have faced many trials with our family and business, but we came to ask God to handle them. We found Jesus in the Eucharist at Mass and in a relationship grown from praying together. 

My current ministry began with a prayer in 2001. I asked God, "How can In serve you better with the gifts you have given me?" God wasted no time in answering. Husband, family, and teaching had consumed all my time, our children leaving the nest, I began to find time alone to pray and create. The first drawing inspired by God took me to India in 2002. My path crossed a priest, who invited me to bring my artwork of Mother Teresa to Calcutta to her motherhouse. God provided everything for this trip, and laid His hand on us as we traveled. This trip of a lifetime showed me God's Love present in this impoverished country.


Since then, God and I have created images of Christ crucified and risen, Jesus embracing children of all races, and of Mary and the saints. When friends experienced the loss of a loved one, or of an infant, I felt grace urging me to offer comfort and solace with a drawing of their loved one in the arms of Jesus.

Retreat leaders, Prayer groups, fund-raisers and churches have invited me to create a drawing live, in their presence. With much prayer before, with spiritual music in the background, I lose myself as I streak chalk across paper. I keenly feel God at work through my hands. When I step back, chalk dust covers the floor, but God's work shines forth from the paper and in the viewers' hearts.

As I set down my experience, line by paragraph by chapter, the Holy Spirit led me into and through the most painful time of my life and beyond into the healing of my soul. Now retired from teaching, I find more time for prayer, a re-energizing of my art ministry, and an openness to God's "next," whatever it may be.