Catholic Free Press

Catholic Free Press Digital Edition

  • Oct
  • 13

Visualizing the Gospel

Posted By October 13, 2011 | 1:04 pm | Lead Story #3, Local

By Patricia O’Connell
CFP Correspondent

LEOMINSTER – A cement wall at Our Lady of the Lake Parish has come alive with the Gospel message, thanks to Jenene Annessi.
She spent the summer painting a 20-foot long biblical scene of the Sea of Galilee, working several days a week, up to six hours a day. The outdoor mural is in the rear of the church, overlooking a stone grotto.
Mrs. Annessi, 72, is a relatively new parishioner. She undertook this project as a way of giving back to her faith community. She’s also a new Catholic, coming into the Church a year and a half ago .
“It meant a lot to me (the Catholic faith), and I thought of it for so many years,” she explained.
Growing up as a Methodist in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, Mrs. Annessi, realized, at age 18, that she wanted to be Catholic.
Throughout her life, she was in the proximity of Catholics. And she was drawn to the faith because of their example.
“The people seem happier, more content, more loving,” she noted. “I don’t know what it is, but there’s a difference.”
She was too young to remember her first brush with Catholicism, which happened in the hospital where she was born. Religious sisters worked there. Mrs. Annessi’s mother asked one of these sisters for help in spelling her baby’s first name.
“She liked the name, but didn’t know how to spell it,” she said. (Mrs. Annessi’s middle name is Marie.)
Later, Mrs. Annessi formed friendships with girls from a Sioux Falls Catholic school.
Encounters with Catholics continued. Her high school was near the Sioux Falls Cathedral, and, religious sisters waited at her bus stop.
“We’d mingle with them,” she recalled. “We were used to seeing the nuns throughout the city all the time. They were lively and sparkly and happy.”
Later, Mrs. Annessi married into an Italian Catholic family. She would sometimes attend Mass with her husband.
Then, her daughter, Tina, went away to college. While at school, she decided to become a Catholic. This meant Tina’s future children would be raised in the faith.
Mrs. Annessi’s attended baptisms and then her granddaughter’s first Holy Communion. (She has a total of 12 grandchildren and great grandchildren.)
Her husband passed away five years ago, and she started going to Sunday Mass at Our Lady of the Lake with Tina, and getting to know some of the parishioners. Eventually, she decided to begin formal religious instruction for adults, known as RCIA.
“I just love everything about it, the church itself, the people here are so nice,” she said of her parish and her fellow parishioners. “Everything is so beautiful. Everything just means so much more in the Catholic religion.”
Mrs. Annessi, who has been employed to paint murals and hanging signs by various retailers, sought a way to put her talents to use, to “thank the church.”
“This is my way of giving back to them,” she noted. “They’ve helped me emotionally over the last few years.”
Her first mural is a scene of Jesus surrounded by children in the lower level area of the parish.
One day, Mrs. Annessi walked by the mural. An elderly gentleman in a rocking chair sat in front of it. A young boy was playing nearby.
“Well, that’s what it’s for,” she thought.
The second mural, of Jesus near by Sea of Galilee with his Apostles, faces an outdoor grotto behind the parish, a miniature replica of the grotto in Lourdes, France, where Our Lady of Lourdes appeared to a young girl named Bernadette Soubirous in the 1800s.
Mrs. Annessi received a lot of support while painting. Parishioners erected a canopy to protect her from the summer sun. People also kept her company.
“It was fun because friends could come and sit with me and chat,” she explained. “One lady who visits the grotto would come by and chat with me.”
Facing the mural is a little garden and a bench, where people will be able to sit and contemplate the biblical scene now colorfully displayed.
Recently Father Timothy Brewer, pastor of Our Lady of the Lake, held a dedication and blessed the mural.
What would Mrs. Annessi say to anyone else thinking about becoming a Catholic?
“I would ask them to come and visit the church and see for themselves,” she answered.