The Art Work Of Pope John XXIII Worship Space

Pope John XXIII Phase One Worship space includes several original oil paintings done by local artist, and members of our parish: Jim Gerkin, Teresa Satola, and Todd Brausch.  The Iconographic program, (choice of subjects, locations and themes for these paintings), was put together by Msgr. Frecker in dialogue with Mr. James McCrery, the architect for our facility.  The art, along with the architectural design, materials, finishes, and furnishings in a Catholic Church building must all merge into one sacred space, providing an environment for worship.  The integration of these various factors creates both an overall unity, and a hierarchical arrangement.

The Iconographic program for our worship space is made up of several areas.  First, and most important, is the main axis of the Church, including the Baptistery, Main Aisle, Altar, the painting of “The Crucifixion Scene,” and the painting of “The Lamb In Glory.”  Then there are two primary Chapels – the Blessed Sacrament Chapel on the north side in front, and the Reconciliation Chapel on the south side in front.  Finally, there is a secondary Chapel – the Shrine to the Saints located in the back of the worship space.

As we come into the main axis of the worship space, we first dip our finger into the Baptismal Font, and make the sign of the cross to remind ourselves that we are baptized into the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.  Through this baptism, we are called to die to self, and rise up to a new life of service to others.  The journey down the Main Aisle, between the two main banks of pews, is reminiscent of the journey of Christian living, surrounded by our brothers and sisters in faith.  It is on this journey, which begins in baptism, that we live out the dying and the rising of Christ in our own lives.  Weekly, we gather at the Altar to celebrate the death, and resurrection of the Lord in the breaking of the bread, and the sharing of the cup.  This is why the crucifix is traditionally placed on the back wall of the sanctuary, behind the altar.  In this particular painting of “The Crucifixion Scene,” we see Christ crucified, as well as Mary the mother of Christ, and John the evangelist, at the foot of the cross.  Mary and John are depicted here not only because they are the historical personages at the scene (cf. John 19: 26-27), but also because they invite us to stand with them.  Mary is the model of the Church.  We, as she, must always keep our gaze on the face of Christ, and never turn away because of the cross.  John wrote the Gospel of the Church, which portrays Jesus as risen and present with us, through Baptism and Eucharist.  John and Mary remind us that coming to the Altar means, not only being willing to break the bread and pour out the wine in sign and symbol, but also being willing to allow our bodies to be broken, and our blood poured out in loving service of one another.  This dying to self results in rising to new life.  And so, it is in entering into the cross that we find our way to glory.  If we join ourselves to Christ crucified, we will also be joined with Christ risen in glory.  Notice the color of the upper part of “The Crucifixion Scene” in relationship to the “Lamb In Glory.”  The painting of “The Lamb In Glory,” on the ceiling above the Altar, completes the journey, which began in baptism.  As we come to the altar to celebrate the Eucharist, we are brought into a foreshadowing of the Messianic Banquet of heaven.  As we come to the end of our life journey on earth, we hope to be brought into the reality of that Banquet in the fullness of heaven itself.


The Blessed Sacrament Chapel is inspired by the scene of the heavenly sanctuary, as depicted in Isaiah 6:1-2.  In this scene, the six winged Seraphim cover their faces lest they look upon the throne of God.  The painting of “The Angels Of Heaven” helps us show this same kind of reverence to the Tabernacle, which contains the Blessed Sacrament.  Our belief in the real presence of Christ in the Eucharist must always be protected by the way we relate to the Blessed Sacrament reserved in the Tabernacle.  The Tabernacle and its pedestal are most beautiful because they hold the Body of Christ.  The Sanctuary Lamp is located at the entrance to the Chapel, so that one can readily see the location of this important area from anywhere in the Nave.  The color of the clouds of heaven, behind the angels, flows from the painting of the “Lamb In Glory” above the altar.  This is to remind us of the connection between Eucharist as object in the Tabernacle, and Eucharist as action in the celebration of the Mass at the Altar.


The Reconciliation Chapel has also been handled with special care.  The space itself is designed to be a Chapel, not a simple Reconciliation Room.  The importance of the Sacrament of Reconciliation calls for a particularly dignified space in which to celebrate the sacrament.  The finishes and furnishings of the Chapel are most beautiful, in order to show this dignity.  The Painting of “The Embrace Of The Prodigal Son” is placed at the entrance of this Chapel, to comfort the penitent as they come to be reconciled in the sacrament of God’s love and forgiveness.  This painting is also placed to be seen from the Nave, so as to beckon the passerby to come into this great Sacrament of comfort and love.

The Shrine to the Saints is the final Chapel.  It is located in an area that is easily accessible from the side aisle, but that also protects the hierarchical arrangement of the overall iconographic program.  This Chapel honors Mary and Joseph, as well as our Patron Blessed John XXIII.  The original oil painting of  “Blessed John XXIII” by Teresa Satola was blessed and dedicated for this space on Oct. 13, 2002, at the celebration of our Patronal Feast Day.  A display of various items connected to the life and work of Blessed John XXIII is located under the painting to help us form a closer and more vibrant relationship with our patron.


In 2013, we commissioned a statue of St. John XXIII in celebration of the cannonization of Pope St. John XXIII.



The Artists of the Pope John XXIII Sacred Art Program

As the plans for the new Pope John XXIII church building were being finalized, Monsignor Frecker put together a team of professional artists from the parish to plan, develop and execute a sacred art program for the building. Monsignor, acting as the patron, had a clear vision of a powerful, theologically based art program that would enhance the sacred nature of the worship space and he wanted members of the parish to carry out the work.  The team he put together was Jim Gerkin (who he asked to coordinate the effort) Todd Brausch, and Teresa Satola.  Most of the work was done in Todd Brausch’s studio in Lithopolis.  It took nearly a year to complete and install the seven major pieces. 

The Artists:

Todd Brausch

Todd is a professional artist and owner of T. Brausch Studio in Lithopolis, Ohio.  He and his wife Barbara and kids Vincent and Bridget have been members of the parish since the very beginning.  The T. Brausch Studio endeavours include faux, murals, fine art, and art refinishing.  Commissions in the form of paintings, sculpture, and mixed media are welcome.  Todd has a BFA from the Columbus College of Art and Design and has studied with masters of classical sculpture restoration in Ortesi, Italy.  614-833-4159

Teresa Satola 

Teresa Satola, an original member of the parish, is owner of Teresa Satola LLC. She is a classically trained artist with a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree from the Schuler School of Fine Art. Teresa teaches classes in the Old Master's technique of oil painting to adults and children. She is also gifted in developing the artistic visions of her students in the mediums of drawing, water-color, and colored pencil.  Teresa does portraits, church commissions, sacred art and produces a series of greeting cards and other products.  614-920-0939

Jim Gerkin

Jim is a professional artist who specializes in watercolor paintings.  He owns the Artmaster’s Apprentice Studio in Lancaster, Ohio.  He and his wife Sheryl have been members of the parish from the beginning.  Jim’s has a BA in Art from West Virginia University.  His favorite painting subjects are landscapes, portraits and scenes from every day life.  His work is shown in regional, state and multi-state shows and in the Monarch Gallery in Lancaster.  He does commissions and other specialized art work.  740-653-3840