November 1, 2021 | Local News

A detail of the saints mural at St. John the Evangelist Parish in Paducah. COURTESY OF DAVE KAMINSKI

Ten saints, maybe more

Delving into the history of Paducah parish’s saintly murals


 The left-hand mural when facing the sanctuary at St. John the Evangelist Parish in Paducah depicts (left to right) St. Kateri Tekakwitha, St. Maximilian Kolbe, St. Boniface, St. Mary Magdalene, and St. Thérèse of Lisieux. FILE PHOTO

For almost 200 years, Roman Catholics in what is now southern McCracken County have gathered to celebrate the Eucharist and other sacraments, first in homes in the 1830s, and sometime after 1849 in a dedicated church building named after St. John the Evangelist. Two church buildings later, the parishioners undertook a renovation of the church under the leadership of their pastor, Fr. Bruce McCarty.

Community projects such as these— because they involve tastes, opinions and dearly-held beliefs— can result in implosions of various kinds. Geraldine Wurtz Durbin, the coordinator of the Renovation Committee, noted that under Fr. McCarty’s gracious and gentle leadership people felt that their opinions, freely shared, were respected and woven into a consensus that kept the process moving forward until its completion in 2006.

The liturgical consultant, Capuchin Friar Mark Joseph Costello, proposed the painting of “Communion of Saints” murals inside the church, noting that there is a longstanding practice of surrounding the gathered earthly liturgical assembly with a heavenly assembly. Images of holy ones, familiar faces from various times and places, can inspire our journey to our common goal— the heavenly banquet.

With the murals, Friar Mark wished to create a movement suggesting a procession to the altar. Five saints on either side of the sanctuary direct our focus to the community’s holy table. The figures are painted in muted tones, about the color of wheat, with a subtle blue edge.

The right-hand mural when facing the sanctuary at St. John the Evangelist Parish in Paducah depicts (left to right) St. Isidore, St. John the Evangelist, St. Martin de Porres, St. Elizabeth Ann Seton, and Ven. Catherine McCauley. FILE PHOTO

The Renovation Committee carefully selected the saints to be represented. There is Mary Magdalene, the “apostle to the apostles” who was the first to announce the Good News of Jesus’ resurrection. The community’s patron is there, John the Evangelist, with quill in hand. Boniface, patron saint of Germany, stands with his crozier in honor of the German immigrants who settled the area, and Isidore kneels with his scythe in a nod to the community’s rural nature. Peruvian saint Martin de Porres, patron of racial harmony, stands offering food for the poor as was his custom. Native American Kateri Tekakwitha, hands crossed in prayer, is pictured with Thérèse of Lisieux, whose “little way” to holiness has been an inspiration to many St. John parishioners. Conventual Franciscan Maximilian Kolbe is stepping forward as he did at Auschwitz to give his life for another prisoner. And finally, in acknowledgement to the religious women who staffed St. John the Evangelist School, Elizabeth Seton guides a child (the Sisters of Charity of Nazareth staffed the school for 12 years), and Catherine McCauley (not yet canonized but who was declared Venerable by Pope John Paul II) — whose Sisters of Mercy staffed the school for over 75 years —completes the mural.

Now when the parish community of St. John the Evangelist gathers with their current pastor Fr. Bruce Fogle for Eucharist, they have a visual reminder of the “great cloud of witnesses” (Hebrews 12:1) that surround them, witnesses who help keep their focus on the foretaste and vision and promise of a future, where God’s chosen, holy and beloved, sing a song of victory to the Lamb who brought them there.

Mike Bogdan is the director of the Office of Music for the Diocese of Owensboro. Contact him at (270) 852-8327 or [email protected].


Originally printed in the November 2021 issue of The Western Kentucky Catholic.


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