“Everyone should have their own way of praying,” says Sr. Mary Ann Therese Kelly. “Stained glass is mine.” Sr. Ann Therese, stained glass artist and art professor, teaches both the practical and the spiritual aspects of stained glass in her Illumination Stained Glass Studio at Villa Maria College in Buffalo, NY. She understands light as a symbol of goodness and immortality, and she “enlightens” those who seek illumination, showing the spiritual and kinetic properties of stained glass — and the contemplative process of creating it.
Sr. Ann Therese regularly teaches high school and college students, leads stained glass retreats, offers summer camps for kids, and invites people with developmental disabilities to create beautiful and practical pieces in her studio. “It’s nice to do what I’m good at and what I love to do to help people,” she says.
Along with recreational therapists Laura Bauer and Karrie Frank, a group of women from Our Lady of Victory recently experienced a 3-day Holy Week “glass camp,” where they created candle holders, night lights, refrigerator magnets, and other functional small objects to take home and cherish. For individuals with disabilities, creating stained glass is more than mere recreation. Art therapy has the power to enhance self-confidence, ease anxiety, and build communication skills – not to mention connecting them to spiritual gifts.
“What a joy it is to share this rare art form with others and bring something very special to their lives,” says Sr. Ann Therese. “Stained glass is particularly connected to spirituality. For me, it’s part of my prayer life.”