By TAMI QUIGLEY Staff writer
“When I die, I will send down a shower of roses from the heavens, I will spend my heaven by doing good on earth.”
These words of St. Therese de Liseux are part of the fabric of the Catholic community in the Panther Valley, as the former Our Lady of Mount Carmel, Nesquehoning, is now site of the Diocesan Shrine of St. Therese de Liseux.
Members of the community gathered at the shrine July 16 to celebrate the centennial of New Columbus and Our Lady of Mount Carmel with the unveiling of the shrine’s unique painting “The Shower of Roses” by artist Dana Van Horn.
New Columbus is a neighborhood that includes the area north of the Nesquehoning Creek, opposite Nesquehoning Village. It is the second largest neighborhood in terms of the number of people, next to the Nesquehoning neighborhood.
Development of the New Columbus neighborhood was a result of relocating the Little Italy section of Nesquehoning.
Van Horn’s 5-by-7-foot painting depicts Our Lady of Mount Carmel, St. Therese de Liseux and the infant Jesus showering New Columbus with roses. The late Monsignor Agnello Angelini can be seen high in the clouds, keeping a watchful eye over the parish.
Monsignor Angelini, who died in 1987, was a former pastor of Our Lady of Mount Carmel and led the way in beginning the annual Shower of Roses celebration at the parish in 1932.
Parishioners raised the funds to commission the painting, update the shrine’s sanctuary floor and brighten its walls with a fresh coat of paint.
“Formerly under the title of Our Lady of Mount Carmel, this campus has since taken on the responsibility of bringing the faithful, from near and far, to a more profound devotion to our beautiful little Therese,” said Father Allen Hoffa, pastor of St. Joseph Parish, Summit Hill and rector of the shrine.
“Our shrine now offers a unique devotion to Our Lord, Our Lady of Mount Carmel and St. Therese.”
Father Hoffa said this beautiful commission came from varied inspirations. “We first considered these words of St. Therese,
‘My mission – to make God loved – will begin after my death,’ and ‘I will spend my heaven doing good on earth. I will let fall a shower of roses.’”
“St. Therese’s shower of roses has been a particular part of the local landscape in New Columbus having hosted the annual Shower of Roses Festival for decades. In light of this we felt it fitting for this commission to depict the shower of roses in a very unique way,” Father Hoffa said.
“Starting from the bottom, you will notice the distinct skyline of New Columbus. Catholic life and culture were so important to the faithful when this little piece of Italy was established in 1918. The Shower of Roses is a dedication to the many men and women who have made their faith and their devotion to Our Lord, Our Lady of Mount Carmel and St. Therese the summit of their lives.
“In addition to the representation of the Shower of Roses Festival and New Columbus, it was essential for us to incorporate and give due honor to Monsignor Agnello Angelini.
“Monsignor Angelini was very dedicated to Our Lady of Mount Carmel, St. Therese and the people of the parish. We wanted to make sure that Monsignor Angelini would have a prominent position in the art that reflected his spirituality, care for and continual intercession for the shrine.
“Discreetly positioned in the clouds above the shrine’s location you will notice Monsignor Angelini’s likeness. He will forever watch over us, while at the same time, always under the heavenly presence of Our Lord, Our Lady, and St. Therese.
“Often when Our Lady of Mount Carmel is depicted, she is shown holding the infant Jesus.
“While St. Therese spoke about the aspects of Jesus in infancy, she also spoke of him in his childhood. We wanted to highlight this often-forgotten portion of our Lord’s life and his childhood influence on St. Therese.”
Dana Van Horn
“My goal with any commission is to provide a visual form to spiritual beliefs. I try to honor tradition and longheld beliefs while at the same time make them relevant to a contemporary audience. In consultation with Father Hoffa and Sheree Strauss, director of the shrine, we arrived at a composition that fulfilled all the iconographic requirements,” said Van Horn.
“I want the scene depicted to seem as natural and real as I can. Therefore, I use actual people as models, choosing ones whose appearance embodies the spirit of the person I am depicting.
“In the case of St. Therese, I found a young woman who resembles the photographs that exist of her, making changes to eye and hair color as needed. I then posed the figures in the clothing they wore and worked from numerous reference photographs. A proposed sketch doesn’t always work in the final version so changes and additions are agreed upon by everyone involved.
“One of the things I like about commissions is that an artist who is ordinarily autonomous may be forced to consider alternative solutions that result in a better painting.
“The other aspect of commissions I appreciate is that unlike my noncommissioned work, the painting performs a function; it has a job.”
Van Horn said he hopes this painting does its job by enlivening and enriching the spiritual life of the faithful.
In 1980, the late Bishop Joseph McShea, founding Bishop of Allentown, commissioned the then-31-year-old Van Horn to create the murals that adorn the sanctuary walls of the Cathedral of St. Catharine of Siena, Allentown.
Those murals are “St. Catharine of Siena Leading Pope Gregory XI from Avignon Back to Rome, 1736” and “St. Catharine of Siena Addressing Pope Urban VI and the College of Cardinals in Rome, 1738.”
Van Horn holds an MFA from Yale University, New Haven, Conn.; a BFA from San Diego State University, Calif.; and graduated from the Whitney Museum Education Program, New York, N.Y.
He has mounted solo exhibitions at the Baum School of Art, Allentown; the Allentown Art Museum; and the Sherry French Gallery, New York, N.Y.
Van Horn’s work has appeared in many group exhibitions since 1980, including at the Art Institute of Chicago, Ill.; Martin Art Gallery, Muhlenberg College, Allentown; More Gallery, Philadelphia; and Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts, Philadelphia.
His work also resides in many public and private collections, including the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, N.Y.; the
Art Institute of Chicago, Ill.; and the Allentown Art Museum.
Van Horn lives in the Allentown area with his son Logan. In addition to his own work, Van Horn accepts commissions. He teaches adults at the Baum School of Art, Allentown. For more information, visit his website.
Shower of Roses
This year’s Shower of Roses, an 86-year tradition celebrating the feast day of St. Therese de Lisieux, will take place Sunday, Oct. 7 at the Diocesan Shrine of St. Therese de Lisieux, 15 E. Garibaldi Ave., Nesquehoning.
The schedule of events is: Mass and Crowning of the Rose Queen at 1 p.m. with celebrant Father Hoffa, rector; procession
at 3 p.m.; benediction at 4 p.m.; helicopter rose drop at 5 p.m.; and spaghetti dinner 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.
The event will feature food vendors, drinks and entertainment. Buses are welcome. Please call ahead to plan for your group.