The Sanctuary contains nine icons, one of the Risen Christ
surrounded by eight saints.
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. 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.
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.
Whether it be as basic as - is Jesus the Son of God, or coping with grief, or facing racism, or moving to a new country, or converting to the Catholic faith - these saints show us the way through their faith response.
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.
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.
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 the meaning in his life.
One day while in prayer at the chapel of San Damiano, Francis heard from the image of Christ on the cross telling him "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.
But when he was confronted with the plight of the poor in his native France, he had an inner 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.
They devoted themselves entirely to the people in smaller towns and villages. Later Vincent established confraternities of charity for the spiritual and physical relief of the poor and sick of each parish.
From these, with help of Saint Louisa de Marillac, came the Sisters of Charity, "whose convent is the sickroom, whose chapel is the parish church, whose cloister is the streets of the city."
He organized the rich women of Paris to collect funds for his missionary projects, founded several hospitals, collected relief funds for the victims of war, and ransomed over 1200 galley slaves from North Africa. He was zealous in conducting retreats for clergy at a time when there was great laxity, abuse and ignorance among them. He was a pioneer in clerical training and was instrumental in establishing seminaries.
St. Martin de Porres (1579-1639)
Martin's story is about a different type of struggle that he encountered. He was the illegitimate son of a freed-woman of Panama, probably a Negro but possibly of Indian descent, and a Spanish grandee of Lima, Peru. Martin was reared in poverty, locked into a low level of Lima's society.
At 12 his mother apprenticed him to a barber-surgeon. He learned to cut hair and also how to draw blood (a standard medical treatment then), care for wounds, and prepare and administer medicines.
He applied to the Dominicans to be a "lay helper," not feeling himself worthy to be a religious brother.
After nine years, the example of his prayer and penance, charity and humility led the community to request him to make full religious profession. His days were spent caring for the poor and nursing the sick.
Side by side with his daily work in the kitchen, laundry and infirmary, God chose to fill Martin's life with extraordinary gifts: ecstasies that lifted him into the air, light filling the room where he prayed, bi location, miraculous knowledge, instantaneous cures and remarkable control over animals. He has been chosen because of his struggle with racism.
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 19, Elizabeth married a wealthy businessman, William Magee Seton. They had five children before his business failed and he died of tuberculosis.
At 30, Elizabeth was widowed and penniless, with five small children to support. While in Italy with her dying husband, Elizabeth witnessed Catholicity in action through family friends.
Three basic points led her to become a Catholic; belief in the Real Presence, devotion to the Blessed Mother and conviction that the Catholic Church led back to the Apostles and to Christ.
Many in her family and friends rejected her when she became a Catholic in March, 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.
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.
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.
St. Gregory the Great (540-604)
Gregory was the Prefect of Rome before he was 30. After five years in office he went on to establish six monasteries on his Sicilian estate, and became a Benedictine monk in his own home at Rome.
Ordained a priest, he became one of the Pope's seven deacons, and also served six years in the East as papal nuncio in Constantinople.
At the age of 50 he was elected pope by the clergy and people of Rome. He was direct and firm. He removed unworthy priests from office, emptied the papal treasury to ransom prisoners of the Lombards and to care for persecuted Jews and the victims of plague and famine.
He was very concerned about the conversion of England, sending 40 monks from his own monastery. 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.
Gregory strengthened the papacy so that the medieval Church could face the struggles, confusion, the lawlessness and the chaotic state of the times with a sense of strength and direction.
His book, Pastoral Care, on the duties and qualities of a bishop, was read for centuries after his death. He described bishops mainly as physicians whose main duties were preaching and the enforcement of disciplines.
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.
She was destined to be a schoolteacher but when orphaned at eighteen, she decided to follow a religious life. Two communities refused her, but in 1874 she was invited by Monsignor Serrati to take over a badly managed orphanage, 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 an institution.
With seven followers she moved into an abandoned Franciscan friary at Codogna and founded the Missionary Sisters of the Sacred Heart, devoted to the education of girls. The institute received the approval of the bishop in 1880 and soon spread to Grumello, Milan and Rome.
In 1889 Frances went to New York at the invitation of Archbishop Corrigan 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, Columbus, in 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.
She 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 in 1950.
St. Clare of Assisi (1194-1253)
Clare was a contemporary of Francis of Assisi. Clare struggled with her family so that she could pursue a religious vocation. Having heard Francis preach, she refused to marry at 15.
At 18, she escaped one night from her father's home, was met on the road to the Portiuncula by friars carrying torches, and in that poor chapel received a rough woolen habit, exchanged her jeweled belt for a common rope with knots in it, and sacrificed her long hair to Francis' scissors.
He placed her in a Benedictine convent for her protection from her father. Sixteen days later her sister Agnes joined her. Others came. They lived a simple life of great poverty, austerity and complete seclusion from the world, according to a rule
Francis gave them as the Second Order (Poor Clares). She is portrayed in the icon holding a monstrance with the Blessed Sacrament. This recounts the time the Sacrens were invading the city.
Clare had the Blessed Sacrament placed on a wall and 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." The Sacrens fled. She has been chosen because of her deep devotion to the Eucharist.
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: "History has not known a man born of woman greater the John the Baptizer." John spent his time in the desert, an ascetic. He began to announce the coming of the Kingdom, and to call everyone to a fundamental reformation of life.
His purpose was to prepare the way for Jesus. His baptism was for repentance. But One would come who would baptize with he Holy Spirit and fire. Perhaps John’s idea of the coming of the Kingdom was not being perfectly fulfilled in the public ministry of Jesus.
As he struggled with this question, he sent his disciples (when he was in prison) to ask Jesus if he was the Messiah. Jesus’ answer showed the Messiah that he was to be a figure like that of the Suffering Servant in Isaiah. John himself would share in the pattern of messianic suffering, losing his life to the revenge of Herodias. John has been chosen to represent all of the prophets
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.