By TARA CONNOLLY Staff writer
Faithful entering St. Anne, Bethlehem will better appreciate the parish’s patroness, her husband and their daughter with the addition of two murals created by local realist painter Dana Van Horn.
More than 300 faithful witnessed the unveiling and blessing of the murals July 22 during Mass celebrated by Father Anthony Mongiello, pastor and concelebrated by Bishop-elect of Allentown Alfred Schlert.
Bishop-elect Schlert opened the Mass with the blessing and dedication of the murals with one mural depicting the image of St. Anne and her daughter, Mary, and the other depicting St. Anne and her husband, St. Joachim.
Through Catholic tradition Joachim and Anne are considered to be the parents of Mary, the Mother of God. With little historical evidence about the couple, tradition maintains that they struggled with infertility and were childless for decades. Joachim was shunned at the temple for being childless and retreated to the mountains to speak with God. During that time, both he and his wife received an angelic prophecy of Anne’s pregnancy.
“There are wonderful traditions of St. Anne and St. Joachim we should know about. She promised that if they were granted a child – they would dedicate that child to God,” said Father Mongiello.
“They were wonderful parents to Mary. They helped her grow in the faith and to eventually say ‘yes’ to God,” he said.
In turn, he said Mary became the mother of all God’s people and constantly points people toward God and Jesus.
“Our own parents pointed us to God at our baptism. They also put us in the arms of Mary. We always have her holding us in her arms, praying for us and loving us,” said Father Mongiello.
“Let us see these saints as our mother and our grandparents in heaven. They guide us in good times and bad and will never leave us,” he said.
During his remarks, Bishop-elect Schlert joked that when he accepted the invitation months ago to bless the murals, he was unaware that he would be named the new bishop of Allentown.
“I didn’t know this was going to happen to me and I didn’t know I would be dressed like this,” he said.
Bishop-elect Schlert then lauded Father Mongiello and told parishioners that without their support, the parish would not be as vibrant.
“It is because of all of you that this parish is so vibrant. Thank you for following Father Mongiello,” he said.
Bishop-elect Schlert also thanked Van Horn, who was present at the ceremony and is the artist behind the murals at the Cathedral of St. Catharine of Siena, Allentown and several other diocesan parishes and rectories.
As a priest for 30 years, Bishop-elect Schlert said he regularly admires the cathedral murals and notices a different artistic element each time.
“I invite you to look at these beautiful murals each time you are here and to see some aspect you haven’t seen before,” he said.
“What we see in these murals should uplift us. These saints weren’t plastic people. They were real people,” said Bishop-elect Schlert.
In addition, he pointed out that Mary’s parents supported her in her decision to say ‘yes’ to God – no matter how strange or unthinkable his request was.
“So, I invite mothers and fathers who have a son or daughter thinking about the priesthood or religious life to support them – even if it seems unthinkable or odd. Don’t put yourself between God’s will. St. Anne and St. Joachim did not do that to Mary,” said Bishop-elect Schlert.
“We need priests and religious. We need good families to support them. Our diocese is only as strong as our parishes. And our parishes are strong because of leadership and parishioners like you,” he said.