Palettes of Prayer

Creative pursuits of all types allow us to express thoughts and feelings that can sometimes be difficult to put into words. Color, form, texture or sound can take us to a place beyond language as we continually seek transcendent experiences that elevate, challenge and inspire.

Many Sisters of the Precious Blood make art and crafts, and while the forms of their creations vary widely — carving, painting, quilting, singing and many more — they share in common a means of communion with others, and a way to reflect the beauty of God.

When Sister Mary Ann Smith made her final profession of vows with the Sisters of the Precious Blood in 1945, she was assigned to domestic work as a cook, seamstress or housekeeper, and she applied her numerous skills and talents in those areas as she served in mission houses across the country. Later in her ministry, she served for two decades in a variety of roles with Catholic Social Services of the Miami Valley, where part of her duties included helping mothers and children living in poverty learn essential homemaking skills.

Throughout her ministry, she served God’s people — among her many roles in community building, she served as a board member of the Emergency Resources Bank and Montgomery County Hunger Coalition, and she worked with the U.S. Department of Agriculture to distribute cheese and butter. The mayor of Dayton declared May 12, 1988, as Sister Mary Ann Smith Day; the Dayton Area Chapter of the American Red Cross recognized her for the “many years of service [she] provided to the hungry of the community.”

All those years, Sister Mary Ann also developed and expanded the practical application of her hands-on skills into a rich legacy of distinctive cookery, ceramics, fiber art, woodworking and carving, and handmade rosaries.

Born in 1920 in Lima, Ohio, Sister Mary Ann’s first woodworking teacher was her brother Bob. She developed her artistic talents in classes at St. Joseph’s College, the University of Dayton, the Dayton Art Institute and the Columbus College of Art and Design.

She made liturgical ceramic vessels, as well as ceramics for home use and display, and her pieces won several awards in the Midwest Ceramic Show in Dayton. She taught woodworking to boys at St. Joseph’s Orphanage in Dayton and taught weaving to women in Ottoville, Ohio. She built 11 altars and made dozens of candle holders for the Maria Stein retreat house in Mercer County. In her lifetime, friends and family also enjoyed her hand-dipped chocolate candy. Sister Mary Ann died in 1994 at the age of 73.

— Story by Mary Knapke

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