Students share lessons from Father Catich

Anne Marie Amacher
Amy Nielsen, a student of the late Father Edward Catich, demonstrates slate techniques at St. Ambrose University in Davenport.

By Anne Marie Amacher
The Catholic Messenger

DAVENPORT — During an open house for St. Ambrose University senior Grace Tony’s “Catich’s Christ: Community through Clothing” capstone project, two of the late Father Edward Catich’s students demonstrated techniques they learned from their mentor.

Artists Amy Nielsen and Maureen Long were students of the renowned calligrapher in the 1970s at then-St. Ambrose College. At the open house, Nielsen showed guests how to cut letters into slate. Long demonstrated calligraphy using ink and newsprint.

Nielsen said she started her art education at the University of Iowa in Iowa City. She took a calligraphy class there but the university did not offer higher level calligraphy courses. Through one of her teachers, she learned about Father Catich and St. Ambrose. She met the priest-teacher and enrolled at the Davenport school. Following graduation, she did calligraphy for Hallmark.


In a letter-cutting demonstration, Nielsen showed guests how to hold the chisel and mallet. She also explained how to secure slate in place during the chiseling process. “You make shallow cuts,” she said. “That way if there is an error, it is easier to fix by making deeper cuts.” At home, a light with a magnifying glass allows Nielsen to see her cuts more clearly.

When a slate is finished, color paint can be added. For gilding, she uses thin sheets of 23 karat gold. “You press it (into the ridges),” she said. Nielsen recalled the shock she and other students felt while learning the gilding process in college; it was worrisome to see the lightweight gold leaf flutter round the air and stick to their fingers. “It was 23 karat gold!”

Anne Marie Amacher
Maureen Long, la student of the late Father Edward Catich, demonstrates calligraphy techniques at St. Ambrose University in Davenport.

Long said Father Catich helped her get a scholarship to study calligraphy at St. Ambrose. It took her a year to learn Catich’s style of calligraphy. “Each letter was designed by Father Catich with precise brush strokes,” she said. “It was a discipline.”

She recalled how Father Catich designed holy cards for countless saints. Besides drawing them out, he also printed them in-house at St. Ambrose on The Catfish Press.

“He was so good and confident,” she said. “I had a fun and interesting education. But I had to do a lot of work.”

Long said Catich helped her and other students find summer jobs — and even some after graduation. After college she worked at WOC TV (now KWQC TV) and then the Quad City Times making graphics for stories. A few years later, she moved to Colorado and created exhibits for the visitor’s center. As desktop publishing entered the picture, Long taught herself graphic design using the computer.

Nielsen, Long and another former student, Paul Herrera, are co-founders of the Art Legacy League (ALL). They formed ALL to preserve the works of Father Catich, sponsor educational experiences, and make Father Catich’s artwork accessible, among other things.
ALL is located at 1225 E River Drive, #201 in Davenport and its website is

Learn letter cutting

Art Legacy League will offer two letter cutting workshops this July, inspired by the late Father Edward Catich.

The first piece of stone is included in the cost. Additional pieces will be available for $10. All tools needed will be provided.

Workshop 1 is three days: July 8 from 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., July 9 from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. and July 10 from 9 a.m. to noon. Bring a simple layout of no more than four letters, a monogram or house address of four numbers. Cost is $250.

Workshop 2 is four days: July 18, 19, 20 and 21 from 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Be prepared with a layout or finalize your image on site and do the work, including colorized inscriptions. Cost is $375.

Seating is limited to 10 per class.

For more information or to register, visit

Support The Catholic Messenger’s mission to inform, educate and inspire the faithful of the Diocese of Davenport – and beyond! Subscribe to the print and/or e-edition, or make a one-time donation, today!

Print Friendly, PDF & Email
Posted on