How great thou art: Davenport parish aims to win traveling trophy – again

Catharine Flynn, left, helps Kay Steele paint a posada scene in the St. Anthony Parish-Davenport hall window last month.

By Anne Marie Amacher
The Catholic Messenger

DAVENPORT — Last year the windows of St. Anthony Parish glowed with a painted crèche scene of the Virgin Mary, St. Joseph and the baby Jesus in a manger. This year’s windows depict the events leading up to the Nativity, as part of a holiday display challenge sponsored by Downtown Davenport.

Kay Steele, the parish’s coordinator of religious education and an artist, describes the scene: “Our middle window shows the Virgin Mother and Joseph looking for shelter. The innkeeper comes out from his house and has his hand up indicating, ‘Don’t come in,’ but with his other hand, he points to the next window, which has the stable and a cow, a dog and a couple of sheep. The third window shows the Magi far off in the distance following the star, which stands over the stable.”

Parish staff chose the theme to “represent the posadas that our parish family celebrates for the nine days before Christmas day.” She researched the idea online to see “how other artists have represented it, and to take the parts that I like from each one. Since I showed a stable, I researched what kind of cows would have been around during Jesus’ lifetime. The same with the dog. I found that the Canaan dog was a dog breed popular in Jesus’ time.”


She drew the images on the window with a Sharpie marker and applied acrylic paint for color. “It’s very streaky on glass, which makes it good for doing the folds of cloth but not so good for other parts of the image. This year, most of the parts of the image were sponge painted. I used the edge of the sponge to make the hay.”

Her friend, Catharine Flynn, worked on the lighting around a lantern that hangs on the outside of the stable, using yellow paint to represent the light and black paint to give it depth. “It was a really nice effect.”

Steele used a sponge for a stucco look to the stable and the innkeeper’s house. The trees, ground and paving stones are all sponge painted, along with the sandy hills of Bethlehem, which depict the Magi’s distance from the other windows’ scenes. Parish secretary Tina Wagschal and her son Christian finished the sky, sponging it dark blue. Stars created with white paint on a pencil eraser accented the sky.

“We always want it to look good inside the parish center as well as outside. I think many of the other windows in the contest are painted on the outside, but we want to be able to enjoy them both inside and outside,” Steele said.

Lights around the windows help with illumination. “Last year, we left the lights on inside the parish center. We may leave the lights on again this year. When we hang the Christmas star, it will be complete.”

The window display will remain for a week or two past the Feast of the Epiphany. Then volunteers will scrape off the paint. “I’ve told them that it would be much too painful for me to scrape it off, so as long as they are willing to clean up the windows and I don’t have to help or even see them doing it, I’ll continue painting them,” she laughed.

Last year St. Anthony won Downtown Davenport’s “Clark Griswold” Downtown Holiday Window display contest. Father Rudolph Juarez presented the award to Steele at the Christmas Eve Mass.

“Our parish center windows help remind us that Christ is the reason for the season,” St. Anthony Pastoral Associate John Cooper said in his weekly newsletter, referring to the Christmas window display.

Contest voting takes place through Jan. 1. Visit to cast your vote.

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