"The greater the work the more
important it is to establish it on
a solid foundation. Thus it will
not only be more perfect; it
will also be more lasting.”

St. Louise de Marillac

“Be diligent in serving
the poor. Love the poor,
honor them, my children,
as you would honor
Christ Himself.”

St. Louise de Marillac


Art and Faith

By Katelyn Rieder, Communications co-op

S. Mary Beth Orr with one of her newest pieces of art displayed in the Motherhouse.

In 1984, S. Mary Beth Orr entered the Sisters of Charity Community and has been a faithful member since. In addition to her call to religious life, she has a strong passion for creating art, specifically stained-glass pieces.

She initially got into this particular form of art several years ago, when she saw a sign in Miamitown, Ohio, that advertised a stained-glass class for a small fee. After taking the initial class, she had to buy all the supplies and tools to continue on her own—which cost a decent amount. “I just love it, I absolutely love it. Even though it kills my budget,” said S. Mary Beth, laughing.

Along with purely obtaining the glass, artists have to buy tools, proper chemicals, frames, solder, and be willing to dedicate a large amount of time to their projects. “People don’t realize the cost of everything,” she continued. “It’s a lot, there’s a lot of steps. But it’s worth it.”

The couple who taught S. Mary Beth in the class went on to become some of her closest friends; she and a few other students would often have dinners with them after class was over. Then, they would continue creating art and playing around with different materials—laughing, chatting, and designing. It was thanks to those early experiences that S. Mary Beth can do what she does today.

Sisters Mary Beth Orr, Mary Ellen Murphy, and Shirley Le Blanc all came together to make this dedication piece.

Most recently she worked with several other Sisters in the Community on a beautiful piece now displayed at the top of the steps inside the Motherhouse main entrance. The triple-panel window shows St. Vincent de Paul, St. Elizabeth Seton, and Mother Margaret George, whose lives of charity and service inspired the Cincinnati Community’s foundation. While S. Mary Beth designed and created the glass, S. Mary Ellen Murphy created the faces of the three figures, as well as the rose that Mother Margaret George is holding. S. Shirley Le Blanc did the wood engraving and burning of the frame to make the whole piece come together.

Mary Beth found the window for the artwork on a curbside. Not long before she found the triple-pane, S. Ramona Chisholm had asked her to create a piece on St. Elizabeth Seton, specifically for the then upcoming Chapter. When S. Mary Beth discovered the once-abandoned window, she thought it could be transformed into a piece showcasing the three important Community figures. Anyone who has seen the window in-person can attest to the fact that this idea came out beautifully.

In addition to creating artwork for the SC campus, S. Mary Beth also enjoys making gifts for her friends and family. Some of her favorite pieces created have been gifts to her nieces or nephews, for birthdays, weddings, house-warming parties, etc. Some of these pieces have also used materials from sentimental occasions, like the bottom of a wedding rehearsal dinner wine bottle.

After being involved in the art form for several years, S. Mary Beth started to miss the fun times she had while creating with others. This, combined with the workshop space she was given in Regina Hall, inspired her to start her very own stained-glass class.

“It was always fun to do glass with other people—even if you didn’t know what you were doing,” she said. “It’s a community type of thing. It can be kind of boring to do it by yourself.”

Mary Beth Orr enjoys working on a variety of art projects, mainly as gifts for her friends and family.

Students get to choose their own pattern and colors for their pieces, with S. Mary Beth there to guide them through the process and give them suggestions. “We just have a good time,” she said. “We all come down [to the workshop] and laugh and talk with music going, it’s a lot of fun.”

Whether you are one of her students, fellow Sisters, or a viewer of her art around campus, you can see immediately how much love and care S. Mary Beth puts into her craft. As she continues to create pieces and teach others, she hopes to one day inspire someone the way her mentors inspired her.

For anyone interested in taking a class with S. Mary Beth, please feel free to reach out to her at mbsc84@gmail.com.


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