Much of the original artwork for Mary’s Pence was conceived and donated by Sr. Gilmary Lemberg, SSND, a talented multimedia artist. Unafraid to get her hands dirty, Sr. Gilmary was also known to use her artistic expertise in sculpting and welding to help many ministries get started.
When Mary’s Pence was beginning she remembers, “I couldn’t get actively involved, but I could lend my talent.” She designed the first brochure and adapted its artwork into the logo which was used for more than 20 years. “The roundness of the logo was, of course, the pence and the faces of women represented our ethnic diversity.”
Sr. Gilmary was born Dottie Lemberg in Chicago in 1927. She attended Academy of Our Lady (AOL), graduating in 1945. Her wonderful years as a student were filled with art, theater and the Girls Athletic Association (G.A.A.) In 1949 she became a School Sister of Notre Dame. After graduating from Mount Mary College (Milwaukee) with a major in art, she earned a master of fine arts degree from the University of Notre Dame.
Among the interesting projects of her life was teaching art to children in a series of 500 programs broadcast over the Milwaukee diocesan TV channel during the 1960s. She returned to AOL as chairperson of the art department later in the ’60s and was also on the faculty of a high school administered by the SSNDs in DeKalb, IL, for several years.
In the early ’70s, Sr. Gilmary represented her province in Rome at the Center for Spiritual Development. Her task there was to learn to implement changes brought about by the Second Vatican Council and bring them back to her province.
After working with Sister Margaret Ellen Traxler, SSND, in opening Maria Shelter in 1974 on Chicago’s South Side, Sr. Gilmary became involved in 1992 with Sister House, a SSND sponsored residential rehabilitation program for women with addictions. The program was housed in a former convent more than 80 years old and needed a lot of attention. She served as maintenance engineer, providing hands-on rehabilitation for both the inside and outside, earning the moniker “Sister Fix-It.”
In 1999 – 2000, she spent six months at a SSND mission in Juan Pedro Caballaro, Paraguay. Sr. Gilmary was asked to carve a statue of St. Gerard, patron of the church, and the Immaculate Conception (each 7 feet tall) in a native wood, treble. While working on these statues, she was also designing a mural for the sanctuary wall. She completed all this work in exactly 6 months and called it her last hurrah! As she remembers, “It surely was because when I returned to the states I needed two total shoulder replacements to add to my knee and hip replacements.”
Once home, she continued to work at Sister House and live at Mater Christi Convent in North Riverside until her tailbone fractured spontaneously. No longer able to live at the convent, which was above a school with a lot of stairs she landed at Marian Village in Homer Glen, IL with 18 other SSNDs in Independent Living.
“We live two sister to each lovely apartment and I am well taken care of. I have also found new ministries working among the other residents here at Marian Village. The Lord has taken good care of me and I hope I have a few more productive years left in me.”
To see a retrospective of Sr. Gilmary’s work, click on PICS – Gilmary.