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Posted on May 16, 2013 |

Treasures: St. Leo Painting

Treasures: St. Leo Painting

A 2004 painting by the late Fr. Jim Hesse, SJ, features St. Leo the Great parishioners as Christ and companions at Emmaeus.

A 2004 painting by the late Fr. Jim Hesse, SJ, features St. Leo the Great parishioners as Christ and companions at Emmaeus.

A painting in the vestibule at St. Leo the Great Church in North Fairmount (OH) is a treasure in more ways than one.


The work of the late Fr. Jim Hasse, SJ, “The Strangers We Meet” depicts Christ breaking bread at Emmaus. Instead of more traditional representations, it depicts Chirst as a man of African descent, sitting with people of various ages and from various ethnic heritages. All the models were St. Leo parishioners.


“Fr. Jim captured spiritual life in his works, revealing the sacredness in everyday people and everyday actions,“ says Fr. Jospeh Folzenlogen, SJ, who lived and worked with the priest painter at Claver Jesuit Ministries in South Cumminsville (OH). “Jim’s paintings were mirrors in which people could see their own beauty.”


Models for the 2004 painting were Timaya Smith (the child in the foreground), Amy Egan, Darnell Edwards, Ivy Peppers, and Rick Nohle.


“Since Jim used people from the parishes and neighborhoods where he worked as his models, the paintings were not just images,” says Fr. Joe. “They were connections with people he loved. Those people were also his children.”


St. Leo parishioner Stephanie Sepate describes the painting as “a beautiful remembrance of purpose” in every life.


“In the upper left of our painting is the figure of the angel by the tomb of the Risen Lord, and the women running to share the news,” she says. “What a beautiful remembrance of purpose in each of our lives — we are not really strangers to each other but we are all one universal family in our life’s journey.”


Fr. Jim Hasse, whose paintings appeared in several publications and are held in private collections, including the art museum at St. Louis University, died in 2011. Most of his his paintings are of biblical subjects and feature African-American people he worked with. To see several galleries of his works with associated reflections, click here.


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