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Featured Windows, April-May 2011

St. Mary Magdalen Church

Building: St. Mary Magdalen Catholic Church

City: Kentwood

State: Michigan

St. Mary Magdalen Çhurch, Kentwood, MI. Built 1962.

St. Mary Magdalen Parish was established in 1956. The present semi-circular church home was built in 1962, with many parishioners contributing their time and talents to its construction. Its stained glass windows, installed to replace the original clear glass, were dedicated on April 11, 2010. They were designed and painted by Michigan artist and longtime church member Maria Orr and were fabricated at the Pristine Glass Company in Grand Rapids, where she was employed. Pristine Glass employees Elizabeth Kolenda and her staff were much involved in the fabrication process by creating and cutting all the digital layouts for the window designs.

Orr, who works in both stained glass and graphic design, is a graduate of Kendall College of Art and Design in Grand Rapids and has studied stained glass painting with the late Dick Millard at his school in Antrim, NH. She also assisted the late John Vander Burgh at his stained glass studio in Zeeland, MI. Orr donated her time to design the windows for her church, working on them for three and a half years on nights and weekends. Her designs include windows for its nine separate entrances and the upper clerestories. Fr. John Breitenstein, the founding priest of the church, had envisioned it as a national shrine of the penitent, where refuge, comfort and forgiveness could be found. Each entrance is dedicated to a remorseful saint or to others who have sought divine forgiveness and reconciliation. The penitent figures pictured in the entrance windows include St. Mary Magdalen, a woman “possessed by demons”; St. Augustine of Hippo, a hedonist; King David, adulterer and murderer; St. Dismas, a condemned thief; St. Peter, who denied knowing Jesus; St. Paul, a persecutor of the early church; the Prodigal Son, a selfish squanderer; all souls in need of God’s mercy; and Venerable Matt Todd, a drunkard. Orr used family members and friends as models for the faces, including her mother, Ethel Bucek, who died during the time when the window designs were being created.

The main entrance windows depict images of St. Mary Magdalen, described in the New Testament as one of the women who accompanied Jesus and was present at his crucifixion. She is said to have had “seven devils” cast out of her by Jesus, after repenting of her transgressions (Mark 16:9, Luke 8:2). Flowing colors in the window above the entrance represent the Holy Spirit and the forgiving arms of God.

Left: St. Mary Magdalen, bound by the chains of her transgressions. Right: St. Mary Magdalen, freed by forgiveness.

King David, the second king of Israel, was a warrior, musician and poet. After sending Uriah, one of his military commanders, to certain death in battle in order to hide his adulterous relationship with Uriah’s wife, David repented of his sins and was forgiven (II Samuel 11 and 12).

Left: A penitent King David reflects on his sinful acts. Right: The forgiven King David playing his lyre.

Left: “The Prodigal Son” is one of the parables that were told by Jesus. The younger of two sons demands his share of his inheritance while his father is still living, then leaves for a distant country where he wastes his inheritance “with riotous living” and is reduced to working as a swine herder. Detail right: Repenting of his selfish ways, he returns home to seek forgiveness from his father, who welcomes him warmly and celebrates his son’s homecoming with a feast (Luke 15:11-32).

In the upper clerestory windows that surround the nave, the Holy Spirit and the arms of God are symbolized by flowing colored forms that embrace all penitents within the church and welcome all those on the outside. The circles represent God’s enduring love and the many colors symbolize diversity within the church.

Maria Orr working on her designs for the windows of St. Mary Magdalen Church. Photo by Mark Cebula.

Images and explanations of all the windows can be found by clicking on the name of St. Mary Magdalen Catholic Church.

St. Mary Magdalen Church was photographed and registered in the Michigan Stained Glass Census by Maria Orr of Kentwood, MI, with photography by Rudy Malmquist and Maria Orr (MSGC 10.0012).

Bibliography: Show Bibliography

(MSGC 2010.0012)

Text by Betty MacDowell, Michigan Stained Glass Census, April , 2011.