“…the angel said to them, ‘Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people.’” Luke 2:10
On this Christmas Eve, we share with you the PHS 2019 Christmas card that arrived in the mailboxes of over 20,000 residents, employees and volunteers this month. This year’s card features the art of Sister Ansgar Holmberg who lives at Carondelet Village in St. Paul, MN and is a member of the Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet-St. Paul Chapter (CSJ). A print of her painting depicts the biblical story of an angel announcing the birth of Jesus to shepherds in the field. It is accompanied by familiar words from the Gospel of Luke to create the beautiful card (pictured right).
The artwork, entitled “Good News,” is painted in gouache, a type of opaque watermedia tinted with natural pigments. It’s an art medium she uses often. “I try to connect my art with the whole of creation.” Her focus on the relationship of creation and humanity appears throughout her subjects, themes and materials.
Sr. Ansgar joined CSJ in 1953 and has been painting since her childhood years. She credits her parochial school teachers for introducing art as a way to understand the church’s liturgical year and spirituality. She was greatly influenced by renowned liturgical artist Ade Bethune who insisted that “all art must be strong and tell the truth,” Sr. Ansgar recalled. Working as a teacher in Catholic elementary and middle schools, Sr. Ansgar found inspiration from the children she taught and continues to teach through her illustrations in children’s books.
Now retired, Sr. Ansgar moved to Carondelet Village in 2012 where she lives among her CSJ sisters and neighbors from all walks of life. She says that being an artist is her current vocation, striving to reflect the CSJ call “to love God and neighbor without distinction.” Her artwork adorns nearly every wall of her apartment. Many of her original paintings hang as part of the spiritual environment of the Wisdom Ways Center for Spirituality, a ministry of CSJ located in the Carondelet Center adjacent to Carondelet Village.
Sr. Ansgar thinks of her work as “art of the heart” and as her spiritual journal. “It’s the way I work things out,” she said. “Other people write; I draw.” She says that her ideas arise from her own spiritual journey and flow from scripture, neighborhood, experiences in other cultures such as Guatemala and Africa, people’s ordinary everyday words and, of course, children. Her art teems with images that reference biblical, historical and world events. “I like to illustrate scriptural events and the parables of Jesus and how they relate to our time.” The characters in her paintings reflect her deep commitment to inclusivity of genders, ages, races and cultures. “I want people to see themselves in these pictures,” she explained.
Since 2010, an original painting by a PHS resident or employee has appeared on the annual Christmas card. We are blessed to add Sr. Ansgar’s inspiring work to this tradition.
May you be blessed as well. Merry Christmas.
Meet the PHS Christmas Card Artists of years past:
2018: Marge Lyons, Waverly Gardens
2017: Carolyn Cardle, Folkestone