Sun shines through the three stained-glass windows in a
renovated gathering room at St. Mary Magdalen Parish in Brentwood,
beckoning further examination.
The windows are at the front of the
room, behind a small stage. In the center is a portrait of St. Mary
Magdalen, part of an effort to educate people on the parish namesake —
the “Apostle to the Apostles” and devoted follower who was the first
witness recorded in Scripture to the risen Christ and the messenger who
announced the Lord’s resurrection to the apostles.
The main window
— framed by two stained-glass windows designed with the crests found
behind the altar in the church — is a reproduction of a traditional icon
of the saint, the same image on a tapestry hanging in the parish
school. The church also includes a painting of a crucifixion scene that
depicts St. Mary Magdalen at Calvary. A recently commissioned stone
statue of the saint on the front lawn outside the church displays the
love the parish has for its patroness.
The intention of these
projects, according to parishioner Chris Musial and pastor Father John
Siefert, is to tell the story of St. Mary Magdalen, an important figure
who supported Jesus’ mission but has been confused with other women in
the Gospel. “You have a real woman in a real time who took an incredible
risk to follow this man, who was God, without really knowing if He’s
the Way, the Truth and the Life,” Father Siefert said. “Faith is a risk,
and that leap of faith brought about the good news of the Resurrection
and a risk we should all take of believing in the offer of eternal
The center window took about four months to complete, said
Musial, the parish’s Boy Scout troop master who conceived the project
and created and inserted the stained glass into old window frames with
help from his family and others. The windows were required to remain in
the construction as an outlet to a fire-escape exit. Before the
renovation, wooden panels covered the windows.
Father Siefert said
the windows sorely needed an upgrade, and he quickly agreed to Musial’s
offer to put his hobby of stained-glass making to use.
drew upon his wife Mariann’s design skills for the saint’s face, and his
sons Joey and Matt lent their abilities. A few friends helped cut
glass, and even Father Siefert added his handiwork. Mariann designed a
darker-skinned Aramaic woman, unlike other portraits of St. Mary
Magdalen. The window showcases colors, especially red and yellow, but
also presents a minimalist style.
“You draw a pattern. Then you
trace it on the glass, then use glass cutter to cut the glass,” Musial
said of the process. He needed the icon as a guide, he said with a
laugh, because “if I drew a picture of St. Mary Magdalen, it would look
more like a Picasso.”
The sculpture of the “Apostle to the
Apostles,” funded through donations, was installed last year in front of
the church on Manchester Road and Brentwood Boulevard. The design is
taken from the crucifixion scene in the church. A St. Louis artist,
Abraham Mohler, sculpted it from a block of limestone. The 10,000-pound
statue honors the power of Christ working through St. Mary Magdalen.
said he was honored and blessed to have the opportunity to create the
piece and learn more about the saint. “To depict her in that moment of
anguish and confusion (at the crucifixion) but yet still portray that
thin ray of hope was what I was striving for. I was pleased with how her
face turned out. It seemed to come about pretty effortlessly,” he said.
>> A saint’s impact
St. Mary Magdalen is an example of a true and authentic evangelizer, one who announces the central joyful message of Easter.
the Gospel of St. Luke, St. Mary Magdalen is mentioned among the women
who accompanied Christ and ministered to Him (Luke 8:2-3). She is one of
Jesus’ most celebrated disciples, famous, according to Mark 16:9-10 and
John 20:14-17, for being the first person recorded in Scripture to see
the resurrected Christ.
On its website, St. Mary Magdalen Parish
explains its deep connection to the saint: “We at St. Mary Magdalen
Catholic Church continue her ministry by worshipping the Lord through
hymns, Mass, prayer and ministering to others in the community.”