The Sanctuary contains nine icons, one of the Risen Christ
surrounded by eight saints.
From left to right, the icons depict the following: St. Francis of Assisi,
St. Vincent de Paul, St. Martin de Porres, St. John the Baptist, the Risen
Christ, St. Clare of Assisi, St. Elizabeth Ann Seton, St. Gregory the Great,
and St. Frances Cabrini.
These saints were chosen to represent various aspects of the Christian
experience. They stand before us as models, and they encourage us
to take up our cross each day and follow the Lord. They teach us by
example how we can breathe new life into our world by our response
to the Gospel invitation of Christ. They are present to us as
representatives of the full communion of saints, whose prayers we
can request as we make our own response to our baptismal vows.
The following is an explanation and brief account of the lives of these holy men and women. Each saint's story deals with overcoming the struggles of everyday life. Each story is a testimony of the power of faith in their lives. This faith empowered them to make the journey of death to a new life, dying to themselves so that Christ could live in them. Not only did they overcome various personal obstacles, each of them in turn gave expression to their faith by their ministry. Whether it be founding a new religious community, reaching out to the poor in their midst, educating the youth, caring for the sick - they enfleshed their faith with apostolic actions.
These icons represent the lives of real people. They are our heroes in the faith. They have dealt with many of the same struggles and obstacles to the faith that we face. We strive to follow their example.
St. Francis of Assisi (1181-1226)
Francis is probably the most known and regarded saint by people of various faiths throughout the world. He was born into a wealthy family in Assisi, Italy. Francis, like many young people, searched for meaning in his life.
One day while in prayer at the chapel of San Damiano, from the image of Christ on the cross, Francis heard Jesus say, "Francis, go out and build up my house, for it is nearly falling down." He would eventually understand these words to mean that he was being called to renew the Church.
He turned to the Gospels as his guide in life. It was through the Gospels that he embraced a life of poverty, chastity and obedience. While Francis is best known as the patron saint of ecology because of his profound love of all creation, he was chosen to be part of our icons because of his faithfulness to the Gospel. St. Francis is also the founder of the Order of the Friars who once staffed our Mission.
St. Vincent de Paul (1580-1660)
Vincent is the patron saint of our faith community. Vincent's story is another one of struggle. Vincent aspired to the priesthood with little more ambition than to have a comfortable life. However, when he was confronted with the plight of the poor in his native France, he had an interior conversion. He dedicated his life to the service of the poor. He founded the Vincentians, a community of priests professing vows of poverty, chastity, obedience, and stability. Later, Vincent established confraternities of charity for the spiritual and physical relief of the poor and sick of each parish. With the help of Saint Louisa de Marillac, Vincent established the Sisters of Charity, "whose convent is the sickroom, whose chapel is the parish church, whose cloister is the streets of the city."
Relying on the generosity of several rich women in Paris, Vincent was able to collect funds for his missionary projects, open several hospitals, collect relief funds for the victims of war, and ransom over 1200 galley slaves from North Africa. He was a pioneer in clerical training and was instrumental in establishing seminaries.
St. Martin de Porres (1579-1639)
Martin, born in Lima, Peru, was the illegitimate son of a Spanish gentleman and a freed woman from Panama, who was likely of African or Native American decent. Martin grew up in abject poverty and encountered much ridicule for being of mixed-race. At age 12, Martin’s mother apprenticed him to a barber-surgeon. He learned to cut hair, to draw blood (a standard medical treatment at the time), to care for wounds, and to prepare and administer medicines. At age 15, not feeling worthy to be religious brother, Martin entered the Dominican Convent of the Rosary as a servant boy.
After nine years, the example of his prayer and penance, charity and humility led the community to request that he take full religious vows into the Third Order of Saint Dominic. However, not everyone accepted the fact that he was illegitimate and of slave origin. In 1603, he became a Dominican lay brother. Martin spent his days working in the kitchen, doing laundry, and caring for the poor and sick in the infirmary. God blessed Martin with the extraordinary gifts of bi-location, levitation, miraculous knowledge, instantaneous cures, and a remarkable control over animals. Twenty-five years after his death, when his body was exhumed, it exhaled a splendid fragrance and was found to be incorrupt. He is the patron saint of people of mixed race, innkeepers, barbers, public health workers, and more.
St. Elizabeth Ann Seton (1774-1821)
Elizabeth is the first native-born American saint. By birth and marriage, she was linked to the first families of New York and enjoyed the benefits of high society. Reared a staunch Episcopalian, she learned the value of prayer, Scripture, and a nightly examination of conscience.
The early deaths of her mother in 1777 and her sister in 1778 gave Elizabeth a feel for eternity and the temporariness of the pilgrim life on earth. Far from being brooding and sullen, she faced each new "holocaust," as she put it, with hopeful cheerfulness. At age 19, Elizabeth married a wealthy businessman named William Magee Seton. The first years of their marriage was happy and healthy, but eventually William’s business and his health declined. In an effort to save William’s health, the family moved to Italy where William had business friends. While caring for her dying husband, Elizabeth witnessed Catholicity in action through family friends. By the time she turned 30 years of age, Elizabeth was widowed and penniless, with five small children to support.
Three basic points led her to become a Catholic; belief in the Real Presence of the Eucharist, devotion to the Blessed Mother, and a conviction that the Catholic Church was founded by Christ and the Apostles.
In opposition to many of her family members, Elizabeth converted to the Catholic faith in March of 1805. In 1809, she was invited to open a school in Baltimore. This would be the beginning of the far-reaching Catholic parochial school system in the United States. She suffered great trials of sickness, misunderstanding, the death of loved ones (her husband and two young daughters) and the heartache of a wayward son.
On July 19, 1813 she took vows along with eighteen other sisters and became the foundress of the Sisters of Charity, the first American religious society. The order spread throughout the United States and numbered some twenty communities by the time of her death at Emmitsburg, Maryland on January 4, 1821.
St. Gregory the Great (540-604)
Pope Saint Gregory I, also known as the Great, was the Pope of the Catholic Church between 590 and 604 AD.
Born to a wealthy family in Rome, Gregory was but a young child when the Ostrogoths sacked Rome and the region experienced the effects of the Black Plague. He was well educated and was considered an expert in law. At age 33, he became the Prefect of Rome.
After five years in office, he went on to establish six monasteries on his Sicilian estate and became a Benedictine monk. He later became an ordained priest, one of the Pope’s seven deacons, and served six years in the East as papal nuncio in Constantinople.
At the age of 50, Gregory was elected pope. He was known to be both direct and firm. He removed unworthy priests from office, and he emptied the papal treasury to ransom prisoners of the Lombards. He cared deeply for the persecuted Jews and the victims of plague and famine. He ordered his clergy to personally go out onto the streets to care for the poor; those who refused were replaced. Pope Gregory is famous for his emphasis on missionary work, particularly in England. It was he who sent St. Augustine (of Canterbury) to Kent in 597. He is known for his reform of the liturgy and for strengthening respect for doctrine. He has been attributed with Gregorian Chant; a form of ecclesial music used in the liturgy. Being a prolific writer, his book, Pastoral Care, on the duties and qualities of a bishop, was read for centuries after his death. Gregory strengthened the papacy so that the medieval Church could face the struggles, confusion, lawlessness, and the chaotic state of the times with a sense of strength and direction. From the time of Gregory onwards, the people looked to the Church for government rather than the distant and indifferent emperors in Constantinople.
St. Frances Xavier Cabrini (1850-1917)
Frances was the youngest of thirteen children of Augustine Cabrini, a farmer, and Stella Oldini. She was born on July 15, 1850 at Sant' Angelo Lodigiano, Italy and christened Maria Francesca.
Even at a young age, Frances was dedicated to living a life of religious work. She received her education from a school ran by the Daughters of the Sacred Heart; she graduated with high honors and a teaching certificate. When she was orphaned at age eighteen, Frances entered the religious life. Two communities refused her due to poor health, but in 1874 she was invited by Monsignor Serrati to oversee the badly managed orphanage called House of Providence, at Codogno. Fierce opposition by its foundress, Antonia Tondini, eventually led to its closing by the bishop of Todi, who then invited Frances to found a separate institute dedicated to poor children in schools and hospitals. With seven followers she moved into an abandoned Franciscan friary at Codogna and founded the Missionary Sisters of the Sacred Heart. The institute received the approval of the bishop in 1880 and soon spread to Grumello, Milan and Rome.
In 1889, at the invitation of Archbishop Corrigan, Frances went to New York to work with Italian immigrants. During the next twenty-seven years, in the face of great obstacles, she traveled extensively, and the congregation spread all over the United States, Italy, South and Central America and England.
In 1892, the community opened its first hospital in Columbus, New York. Its constitutions received final approval from the Holy See in 1907. By the time of her death in Chicago on December 22, 1917, there were more than fifty hospitals, schools, orphanages, convents, and other foundations in existence.
St. Frances Cabrini became an American citizen in 1909. Pope Pius XII canonized her in 1946; she was the first American citizen to be so honored. Pius named her patroness of immigrants.
St. Clare of Assisi (1194-1253)
Born to a devout mother, Clare devoted her life to prayer and had decided to never marry. At age 18, she heard St. Francis of Assisi speak at the church of San Giorgio; she asked him to help her live according to the Gospel. On Palm Sunday in 1212, Clare left her father's home and went to meet Francis at the chapel of the Portiuncula. While there, Clare exchanged her rich gown for a rough woolen habit, her jeweled belt for a common rope, and sacrificed her long hair. When her father found her, he tried to force her back home; however, she said she would marry no one except Christ. To give her respite from her father, Francis sent her to Sant' Angelo in Panzo, a monastery for Benedictine nuns. Sixteen days later her sister Agnes joined her, and others came.
These nuns lived a simple life of great poverty, austerity and complete seclusion from the world, according to a rule that Francis gave them. They became known as the “Poor Ladies of San Damiano," now commonly called the Poor Clares.
In 1224, an army of the Sacrens were invading the city. Although very sick, Clare went out to meet them carrying the Blessed Sacrament in her hands. She placed the Blessed Sacrament by the wall where they could see it. She prayed, "Does it please you, O God, to deliver into the hands of these beasts the defenseless children I have nourished with your love? I beseech you, dear Lord, protect these whom I am now unable to protect." A sudden fright attacked the Sacrens and they fled. She has been chosen because of her deep devotion to the Eucharist.
In the icon, she is portrayed holding a monstrance with the Blessed Sacrament.
John the Baptist (Born shortly before Christ - Martyred prior to Christ's Passion and Resurrection)
John was called by Jesus the greatest of all those who had preceded him: "Truly, I say to you, among those born of women there has arisen no one greater than John the Baptist.” (Matt.11.11)
Through the intercession of God, John was born the son of Zachariah and Elizabeth, who were otherwise too old to bear any children. Scripture states that the Angel Gabriel visited Elizabeth and Zachariah to tell them they would have a son, and that they should name him John. Zachariah doubted this word and was rendered mute until the time his son was born and named John, in fulfillment of God's will. (Luke 1:5-25)
When Elizabeth was pregnant with John, she was visited by Mary, and John “leapt in her womb.” This revealed to Elizabeth that the child Mary was carrying was to be the Son of God. (Luke 1:39-45)
John spent his time in the desert as an ascetic. He announced the coming of the Kingdom and called everyone to repent. When Jesus came to him to be baptized, John recognized him and said, "It is I who need baptism from you." But Jesus answered him, “Let it be so now, for thus it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness.” When Jesus was baptized, immediately he went up from the water, and behold, the heavens were opened to him, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and coming to rest on him; and behold, a voice from heaven said, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased.” (Matt. 3:13-17)
As John’s popularity grew, Herod had John arrested and imprisoned. John condemned Herod’s marriage to his half-brother’s wife. Reluctantly keeping a promise to his daughter, Herod had John beheaded.
John’s feast day is June 24th. He is the patron saint of Jordan, Puerto Rico, French Canada and many other places. John has been chosen to represent all prophets.
About Our Artwork
The Artist - Paul Wagener (1918-2020)
These icons have been lovingly painted and donated by Paul Wagener, a deceased member of Saint Vincent de Paul Church.
Paul was born in Chicago, Illinois and was the eldest of three children. He received a Bachelor of Arts degree in Philosophy from Loyola University. Always a devoted Catholic, he was encouraged to join the priesthood while in college but decided otherwise. He was a man of deep faith, a wonderful father and husband. He enjoyed gardening and prayed the rosary daily.
Paul’s art education was received from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. He became a renowned artist specializing in sculpture, watercolor, and chalk. Some of his juried exhibitions include: National Drawing Show (finalist), Ringling Museum, Denver Art Museum, Mississippi Corridor Print and Drawing Competition, Iowa Art Museum, National Drawing Exhibition, Springfield, Illinois Art Association. Regional juried shows include Artists of Chicago and Vicinity Show, the Art Institute of Chicago, Skokie Fine Arts Commission (highest award for sculpture), and the Chicago Botanical Garden Annual. Among others, he has received awards of excellence in the Chicagoland, Illinois, the Open Spectrum Exhibition of Chicagoland Artists at Adler Cultural Center, Libertyville, Illinois, and at the Atlanta Artists club and the Kennesaw Fine Arts Society.
Wagener served as the Art Director for World Book Encyclopedia. His drawings may be seen under every President of the United States as well as many additional areas in the encyclopedia. Later in life, he began doing liturgical art and began a drawing of the Blessed Virgin Mary but was not able to finish; he never felt himself worthy. He died at the age of 102.
The parish community of St. Vincent de Paul will be forever grateful to Paul for his artist talent and his generosity.