Sister used family members, students in her stations

Editor’s note: Part seven of our seven-part Lenten series on the Stations of the Cross features the stations inside St. Therese Church in Appleton. John Rath, a member of St. Bernard Parish in Appleton, nominated the stations. He and the parish provided the following information.

The 13th Station of the Cross at St. Therese Church in Appleton depicts Jesus taken down from the cross and placed in his mother’s arms. (Sam Lucero | The Compass)

St. Therese Church in Appleton was built in 1939.  My family moved from Two Rivers to Appleton about the same time. My parents, Jerome and Ann Radey Rath, had been members of St. Mark Parish in Two Rivers and they became members of St. Therese Parish.

I remember that when my mother saw the Stations of the Cross at St. Therese Parish she was amazed. My mother told us the Stations of the Cross had been painted by the Agnesian sisters at St. Mark Parish and that they used parishioners for models. My mother told me that she recognized and could identify many individuals used as models in the Stations of the Cross.

According to information provided by the parish, the stations were actually created by a School Sister of Notre Dame, Sr. Mary Leo Hargarten, former head of the Art Department at Mount Mary College in Milwaukee. She did use models for some of the stations, including family members and students from Mount Mary College.

The 14th Station of the Cross at St. Therese Church in Appleton depicts Jesus’ body being laid in the tomb by his disciples. (Sam Lucero | The Compass)

“The stations are modern in conception and are painted in a mixed technique, tempera and oil,” the information states. “Instead of full figures, sister painted three-quarter figures and silhouetted them against a silver background. The color is more brilliant than the usual station pictures.”

The stations measure 24 inches by 36 inches and are enclosed in a walnut frame. Sr. Leo began painting the stations in July 1940 and they were dedicated at a Lenten service in February 1941. Sr. Leo died July 22, 1959.