Mural at St. Joseph Hospital evokes peace and comfort
By Mary P. Walker
Hospitals are places of hectic activity, anxiety and stress, not only for patients, but also for families, medical professionals and staff. St. Joseph Regional Health Center in Bryan uses art to counter these forces and evoke the calming presence of God’s care. Recently, the hospital installed a large ceramic mural of St. Francis, dedicated to Msgr. John Malinowski, the Catholic chaplain, who celebrated the 50th anniversary of his ordination last year.
Sister Penny Dunn, of the Sisters of St. Francis of Sylvania, Ohio and vice president of mission integration for the health system, explained that art can help us when we feel unable to pray.
“Healing art and religious images are doorways to the sacred, and by their very essence, they lift up our minds and heart to God,” Sister Dunn said.
The mural is in the hospital’s lobby, near the entrance and across from the information desk. A peaceful reminder of God’s love and compassion, the pastoral scene silently beckons those passing through this high-traffic area to pause for a moment. Through an intricate but harmonious composition of painted ceramic tiles, the artwork communicates the hospital’s commitment to care for the body, mind and spirit.
The artist, 83-year-old Sister Jane Mary Sorosiak, is a member of the Franciscan community and works out of a studio in Sylvania. Her art can be found in hospitals, churches, schools and libraries. Trained as a painter, she now enjoys creating ceramic murals, which combines the disciplines of painting and sculpture. Unlike mosaics, which use small stones or pieces of glass of similar size, the ceramic murals are composed of painted tiles of different sizes and shapes.
Those viewing the mural may notice a frog in the lower left corner that is raised over the surface of the rest of the piece. When asked about this, Sister Sorosiak explained that Sister Margaret Hall, who works with her, likes to place a frog in compositions because FROG is an acronym for “Forever Rely On God.”
Sister Sorosiak’s art ministry is also at work in the hospital’s Healing Garden, where there is a mural of Our Lady of Guadalupe. Transformed from a courtyard in 2010 and located near the emergency room, the Healing Garden is a place of peace, where visitors and staff can spend quiet time in the midst of beautiful flowers, trees, plants and a water wall.
Hospital rooms overlook the garden, and patients, including those being treated for cancer, can see the garden from their windows. Because many of the hospital’s patients are of Hispanic heritage, Sister Sorosiak was especially pleased that a mural of Our Lady of Guadalupe was included in the garden.
The ceramic tiles for these murals were prepared in her studio, and last June, she traveled to Bryan for the dedication of the St. Francis mural. She was impressed with Texas hospitality and feels blessed to be able to cooperate with God in creating art that reflects the Franciscan love of nature, and offers a calming and encouraging message to those whose lives are touched by illness or infirmity.