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Mary's Biography

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I was born in Lima, Ohio in 1952. I grew up in the middle of six brothers. My family went to church regularly and worked very hard.
God was a part of our family life all through my childhood, yet I yearned to become closer. I wanted to know how to pray as the years passed.

Since I was nine years old, I realized through the encouragement of my parents that God gave me artistic abilities. God has sent me 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 painting of my deceased grandfather. I had never used oils, nor did I know how to paint portraits. The painting amazingly captured the twinkling of my grandfather's eyes. When I handed the painting to my grandmother, I noticed tears falling down her face. From this point on, I knew I wanted to give a part of myself in the creative process. It brought joy to my heart to comfort my grandmother.
When I was in my twenties, my grandmother asked me to create a picture of Calvary to hang at a local nursing home, where she volunteered. Being busy with college, I remember scribbling swiftly this drawing of the three crosses silhouetted against the hills. The chalk swirled across the surface of the velour paper! Little did I know this drawing would have such an impact on so many people. Many suggest that an image of Christ appears subtly in the cloud above the middle cross. This was the work of the Holy Spirit. Divine intervention had definitely played a part of this creation! I did not plan the outcome; it was God's plan!
God sent me a wonderful man, John Hilger, about the same time as this creation. I always called him my "rock." John has big shoulders with a gentle heart. He has always encouraged me to use God's gifts. I attended the Catholic Church with John and fell in love with the symbolism and ritual of this faith.(My deep conversion came much later). My parents supported my decision to join the Catholic Faith, as long as I believed in God. John and I took guitar lessons together and started a folk group at the church in the 70's. Participating in church brought us closer to the Lord. John and I married after five years of dating in 1976. We had five daughters by 1984, and our last daughter was born in 1990. Their names are Jennifer, Maryann, Sally, Kathleen, Michelle and Laura.
Our life was a whirlwind! I taught art before our first child was born and went back to teach in 1986, and have been teaching ever since then. I love to teach art, because it can be a tool to build self-esteem. I want to embrace those who struggle in school or in their family. The art gives the students a sense of accomplishment. If teaching did not keep me busy enough, I helped my husband with our own market, farm, and restaurant (built in 1987). Occasionally I would sing at church or volunteer at the church or school. Our family sang together when they were small at fairs and contests during the 80's. Our children's activities consumed us, as well. My grandmother always said if you want something done, ask a busy person. I was that BUSY person! And I love to be busy! I dabbled with my art, but found little time to express myself! I was trying to survive being a mother, a wife, and a 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 automobile accident in 1984. This event made me realize I was too busy. I tried to slow down. But, then we built a restaurant in 1987. That consumed our entire family! It required long hours in addition to our other tasks.
In 1989, I developed nodules on my vocal chords, which took a year to heal through voice therapy. For three months I had to teach without talking. Was God trying to tell me something?
In the Fall of 1992, I drove my car into a twenty-foot ditch, and miraculously walked away without a scratch. I knew God was not finished with me! I needed to slow my pace!
A guardian angel protected our two-year-old baby from death when she overdosed on vitamins in 1993. God was revealing Himself through angels.
In 1993, I went through a deep conversion of my faith. I began to travel to retreats and spiritual pilgrimages, some with my family members, and others without, trying to get rekindled in my faith. With each journey, my faith grew. My prayer became more contemplative, and from the depths of my soul. I wanted to show my family by example, rather than preaching. After years of a busy life, I finally learned to find God in the silence. I found a quiet place to be with God daily.
My pilgrimages took me to places around the country and all over the world. In many situations God provided for these trips. John and our daughters have attended retreats, as well. I always came back from these retreats, revitalized and on fire! A holy priest once said to me, though, if you can love Jesus when you are in the desert, then you are truly converted! He was so right! My husband and I have faced many trials with our family & business. But we have been able to allow God to handle them. My husband and I have found Jesus in the Eucharist at Mass. It is in our deepest humility that we find Jesus.
My recent inspirations began with a prayer at a retreat in spring 2001. Until this time in my life, my husband, family, and teaching had consumed all my time. My children were beginning to leave the nest, and I began to find time alone to pray & create. The first drawing inspired by God took me to India in 2002. My path crossed Father Cyril Fernandez, who invited me to bring my artwork of Mother Teresa to Calcutta to the mother house. God provided everything for this trip, as well as laid His hand on us as we traveled to this third world country. This was a trip of a lifetime, showing me how God's love is present in this impoverished country.
Upon my return, I was dealing with my father's grave illness, and eventually death. I cherish these moments with my Dad! I was numb, after his death. It did not matter that I went to India. I needed to be with my family. I believe that God brought me to the desert to reflect on all my recent experiences. The best place to find God is in the silence
Last Updated on Wednesday, 10 February 2010 15:32