Learn to “paint like a saint”


By Anne Marie Amacher
The Catholic Messenger

DAVENPORT — Twice a month, St. Paul the Apostle parishioners gather in the basement of McEleney Hall to “paint like a saint.”
This ministry was begun by Jen Brooke, the parish’s director of religious education. She received seed money from her personal life insurance company last August and purchased paint and supplies so that anyone attending the painting events would not have to pay.

Anne Marie Amacher
Jen Brooke, director of religious education at St. Paul the Apostle Parish in Davenport, paints a wooden peg doll to look like a saint. She leads free painting workshops called “Paint Like a Saint” as a ministry at the parish.

“I enjoy painting and I know lots of people also enjoy creative arts or crafting. So it seemed like a good opportunity to share my personal interest in a way that helped other people get involved with a ministry that explores faith and that shares resources,” Brooke said. “It would be very easy for me to just take this up as a hobby and do this on my own time, but I really like spending time painting with others, the easy flowing discussion that comes while we paint, the collaborative effort and seeing how each saint looks a little different because each one is a handcrafted piece of art made by individual artisans with different perspectives and gifts.”

Brooke has over a dozen designs for saints, including St. Peregrine, St. Teresa of Kolkata, the three archangels and Mary – Undoer of Knots. The saints are chosen in a variety of ways. Sometimes Brooke researches the patron saint of a particular cause. Sometimes a saint’s name is suggested. Or someone might suggest a particular date that leads to discovering a saint’s feast day. Her research uncovers other interesting facts.


She sketches the saint to be painted on a wooden peg doll and writes suggestions for colors. “I’m not a stickler on colors. If someone wants to use royal blue rather than baby blue, that’s fine by me,” Brooke said.

Participants can start a new saint or work on ones already in production. “We have six to 10 designs in production at any one time,” Brooke said. “Detail work is the most time consuming and not everyone is comfortable with the finished work. So we have some saints that need some TLC and finishing.”

The painting sessions may draw just a couple of people or nearly a dozen. Sessions are held on different days and times each month to accommodate a variety of schedules.

Monica Burchette, a painter, received a message about the ministry and decided to check it out. “I’m not an artistic person, but I came and had fun. I brought some of my friends, too.” She said she likes learning about some saints she has not heard of and continues to attend painting sessions.

While painting, the painters talk about all sorts of topics from children and homes for sales to music and church.
The name and feast day of each saint appear on the bottom of the peg doll. A small prayer card or story card accompanies the painted saint.

The information is meant to inspire the saint’s “owner” or “caretaker” to explore the saint’s story in a deeper way and to figure out how to pray with or look to that saint for guidance. The individual can reflect on lessons to be learned from the saint’s life story, Brooke said.

Earlier this year, religious education students each chose an archangel to take home. During Lent they were reminded to pray at home.

The finished peg dolls can be used as gifts, icons, as faith-based toys, a classroom tool or faith formation tool. “I’ve also included them in care packages or with meals delivered to parishioners who may be grieving or struggling.”

For more information on Paint Like a Saint, contact Brooke at (563)322-7994, ext. 113 or davstpauldre@diodav.org.

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