At the beginning of the school year, parents of students at St. Columbkille Elementary School were told the school had a new painting.
They were surprised to see that the new painting was in fact a 40-foot mural in the school’s entryway.
“The idea’s been kicked around for a number of years to somehow make the entry more inviting,” said the Rev. Damian Zuerlein, pastor at St. Columbkille church.
Zuerlein offered to contact his brother-in-law, muralist Dave Reiser. Reiser has done a number of murals for schools and museums.
The idea for the mural’s depiction was a combined effort between Reiser and staff.
Zuerlein said they wanted it to depict the life of St. Columb, the church and school’s patron saint. Zuerlein gave Reiser several books about Columb’s life.
“Columb lived so long ago we don’t even have artwork of him,” Zuerlein said.
The mural starts with school children standing before Jesus. It represents the center of the parish and the school, said the Rev. Kevin Vogel. It continues to depict Columb’s life in Ireland, his journey to Scotland and his life there.
Columb was born in A.D. 521 to a family connected to kings and princes, but he was destined for priesthood. After establishing Irish monasteries, he went on to Scotland.
Imagery in the mural also pays a nod to Columb’s poetry and songwriting. The saint is depicted in the mural as writing on parchment. He is writing his last words to his disciples: “O my children, I will pray for you.”
“The kids are reminded that they have this patron saint that’s praying for them,” Vogel said.
Vogel, who teaches at the school, gave children a lesson at the beginning of the year about the mural.
He pointed out the details, such as the dove that represents the meaning of Columb’s name, “dove of the church.”
“Hopefully, they remember parts of it as they run by it in the hallway,” Vogel said.
One of the main goals of the mural is to explain the life of the church and school’s namesake.
“Not a lot of people know about St. Columb,” Zuerlein said. “I think this helps. This is what he might have looked like, where he lived, what he did and why he’s famous.”