One Set of Eyes

How does a person go about choosing one's life work? Do you think about what will provide security, a life of comfort...excitement perhaps? Or, is all about a Job, essentially a paycheck- and not a Vocation. I ask because I don't know how other people go about it. I was lucky enough to have someone tell me what to do with my life. That person is Sr. Lucia Vasko.

Sr. Lucia at the window she designed at Ursuline College

Now before that left eyebrow goes up, let me just tell you that this was a good thing.

It was suggested to me when I entered high school that I choose a practical career path, and I agreed. In sophomore year, my schedule allowed time for an elective course, which guessed it, art. Sr. Lucia did not hesitate in resetting my direction. She decided right then and there that I needed to become an artist. Case closed. Scratching my head, I said that's great, but you'll have to discuss this with my parents. And she did. And they listened, shrugging their shoulders at the kind nun who seemed to know about such things.

Sr. Lucia, two classmates and I at the Scholastics competition in 1980.

There are many variations to this story. Countless students that Sr. has guided and inspired in her 60+ years of teaching.

Born in Cleveland and raised in Willoughby, she entered the Ursuline order right after high school, in 1950.  Sr. Lucia taught primary and middle school for her first few years, but has taught at the high school level for the majority of her career. Sr. Lucia attended St. John’s College for a while, but completed her undergraduate degree in English and Art at Ursuline College. It took her five summers to earn her graduate degree from the Rochester Institute. She continued to take post-graduate classes at a variety of universities, and has worked in clay, drawing, printmaking and stained glass. She has taught evenings at Ursuline College, working both with art teachers and also adults interested in art lessons. “I love every form of drawing,” she says. “I could draw all day if people would let me. I also love to paint, but it’s just not as handy—you don’t always have a brush nearby. My ultimate medium is stained glass, but you need a studio for it and you need a lot of special equipment.”

Sr. Lucia designed and created the stained glass windows in the St. Angela Chapel at the Ursuline motherhouse. “I felt like that was the apex of everything I had done,” she says. “I treasure the windows.”

Generative Love, stained glass windows at Ursuline College Chapel


More work:

Dawn of Being, etching, aquatint.

Crest of Youth, etching, aquatint

Autumn of Maturity, etching, aquatint

Night of Life, etching, aquatint

I am happy to share that Sister will finally have her opportunity to become a full-time artist. She has a beautiful studio space in which to work in, and I for one am so looking forward to seeing what she comes up with in the coming days and years.

As we packed up her classroom this past week, I was struck by how much I have gained from this single person, this one set of eyes that cast their gaze on what I was doing and found it worthy enough to focus on, to have ME focus on it. She changed the path of my life. I know no other way to thank her but by creating a piece that she will hopefully treasure. It is a portrait of St. Theresa of Liseux, a saint Sr. Lucia has a particular affinity for. I believe they share so many similar qualities.

St. Theresa of Liseux at 15, a gift for Sr. Lucia

The biggest piece I will carry, and never quite duplicate, is her purity, her sheer love of life and (seemingly) everyone in it. She takes so much in stride, with nary a complaint. There's a glow about her, a joy in just giving. Her vocation reaches way beyond the obvious one of serving God. She sees the value in each of us, encourages us to use our gifts because that is the BEST way to serve the world. My interpretation of her charism is to BE the gifts we are given.

I will never understand the idea I've often heard out there,  that 'you are not your job'...well, if you can't be, then you've chosen the wrong one. You need another set of eyes to show you the way. Thank you Sister, for lighting mine.