Paintings of Note Depict Dramatic Gospel Messages
Arts in Our Churches
By Louise Brass, Observer Correspondent
February 21, 2019
While many churches in the diocese have acclaimed artwork, there is no doubt St. Peter in Geneva, which continues to be lauded for its strong basilica architectural form with inventive use of natural light, seems surely to be an appropriate place for the worthy paintings of noted local artists. 
And, while many are called to follow Christ, few are chosen to paint the Gospel message on wall-sized linen canvases.
Albert Ochsner III, of St. Peter Parish, in Geneva, can claim to do both.
At least it might seem he was chosen when he painted the dramatic “Peter Walking on Water” (inspired by Mt 14:25-31) and “Peter Receiving the Keys” as recounted in Mt 16:13-20. 
The works are placed in the narthex of the church at 1891 Kaneville Road. They can’t be missed by those entering the building.
When Ochsner, a devoted Catholic, first joined St. Peter a few decades ago, he said he wanted to give something to the church. After talking it over with the pastor at the time, the idea of doing a painting took shape, he said.
But one painting just didn’t seem to be enough. The plan subsequently resulted in two huge pieces of art. 
These are not just any large oil paintings of famous biblical scenes. Each one also has some subtle elements painted into the work. Most people don’t notice them at first glance.
“People can look at each one maybe 20 times and not see everything in the paintings,” Ochsner says.
For those who can’t take a lot of time mulling over the creations, Irene D’Anna, wife of Deacon Greg, is often on hand and willing to point out the eye of God subtly expressed in the sky, as well as a mysterious key in the heavens, and the shape of a dove representing the Holy Spirit placed above the depiction of Jesus. 
And who is that, almost drowning in the rough waters of the Sea of Galilee? That image is perhaps there for personal interpretations by the viewers. The themes of the paintings were chosen because this building is dedicated to St. Peter, said Ochsner. 
He is an art teacher at Geneva High School, a cartoonist and illustrator. He designed a cover and other graphic and interpretive art for two books by Ronald Benes, one of which was distributed to numerous parishes a couple of decades ago. 
No matter where he goes, this artist is never without two greeting card-sized, leather bound sketchbooks. However, religious paintings are favorites with him, he said, partly because there is so much inspiration for artistic expression in the Catholic religion, and much to be seen to enhance a person’s beliefs.
“The Catholic Church is the most visual faith out there,” Ochsner says.
Patroness of the Americas
Many parishes around the diocese display prints or oil on canvas reproductions of Our Lady of Guadalupe, also called the “Patroness of the Americas.” 
Whatever the medium used, paintings of Our Lady of Guadalupe depict the image found on the famous tilma (cloak) of the Mexican shepherd St. Juan Diego. It was in the year 1531 that he reported seeing Our Lady.
At St. Peter Parish Gloria Lindstrom is noted for her painting of “Our Lady of Guadalupe,” now displayed in a side altar. 
A bank of candles in front of the painting flicker; flowers are placed beside the picture by the prayerful faithful.
When the miraculous vision occurred, the bishop at the time asked for proof of the occurrence and St. Juan is said to have asked Our Lady what to do. 
St. Juan was instructed to go back to the bishop and show him his cloak. When he opened the tilma, flowers fell out — they were out of season blooms. 
But more incredibly, in the original the imprint of the vision of the Virgin Mary was found on the tilma and has stayed on the rough maguey-fiber fabric for almost 500 years, published reports say.
Scientific studies of the tilma, says Rockford resident and Holy Family parishioner Michael O’Neill, creator of, have reported that “in the eyes of the Virgin can be found reflections that may be the group of people in the room at the time when St. Juan Diego unfurled the cloak with her image on it.
“Dr. Jose Aste Tonsmann from Cornell University,” O’Neill contiued, “worked with IBM to process high resolution photographs of the eyes of the Guadalupan image, eliminating noise (visual distortions) and enhancing them to reveal the presence of multiple figures thought to include the bishop-elect, a family and the future saint.” 
He adds that ophthalmologists have identified “what seems to be the presence of the triple reflection — (called) the Samson-Purkinje effect — characteristic of the human eye and that the distortion of the images follow the curvature of the cornea.”
The appearances of Our Lady to St. Juan are believed to have led millions of indigenous Indians to convert to Catholicism.
Today, the tilma is housed in the Cathedral in Mexico City, where thousands of pilgrims come to the site to pray annually.
An attempt to destroy it occurred in the last century when a bomb exploded near the Cathedral altar. A metal cross near the tilma was bent in the blast and other damage occurred. But the cloak was not damaged.