From Blank to Beautiful – Mural Livens Health Center Waiting Room

Watch this time lapse video for a look at how the new mural was created!


Bringing beauty to overlooked places is the driving force behind Br. Mickey McGrath’s paintbrush. In fact, he quotes Pope Francis, “An artist is an apostle of beauty, who helps others to live.”

During National Catholic Schools Week, Br. Mickey was at St. Joseph’s Indian School painting a mural with St. Joseph’s art teacher and a handful of passersby who left their marks of blue, yellow and red.

“We’ve been talking about this project for years and years,” said Br. Mickey. “Luckily, we finally found a time that worked, and how fitting to be during Catholic Schools Week.”

Br. Mickey McGrath was at St. Joseph’s Indian School during Catholic Schools Week to paint this beautiful mural. The Lakota phrase featured translates to “we are all related.”

The mural, located in St. Joseph’s campus health center, displays four important figures: St. Kateri Tekakwitha (left), the Virgin Mary with the Christ child (center) and Nicholas Black Elk (right).

St. Kateri is the first Native American to be recognized as a saint by the Catholic Church. St. Kateri was known as a skilled worker who was very diligent and patient. She is the patroness of ecology, especially for Native Americans.

Br. Mickey McGrath works on Saint Kateri, who is seen holding elements representing the four seasons.

“St. Kateri has always been a favorite of mine,” said Br. Mickey. “She’s the symbol saint for outcasts and misfits. During her short life, she turned her hurting heart into healing for others.”

Which makes her a fitting subject to be displayed in the health center, where St. Joseph’s students receive medical and emotional care.

Students and staff members were invited to help put finishing touches on the mural.

Next to her is the Virgin Mary with the Christ child. A symbol for Mother Earth – a source of life – Mary’s figure is also shaped like a tipi in this mural, which is symbolic of her being the sacred home of Jesus. The mural also features several circles. The circle plays a role in many Native American beliefs and traditions. The circle of the Medicine Wheel, held by the Christ child, represents the continuous pattern of life and death, the path of the sun and moon, the shape of a family home (the tipi) and other significant pieces of Lakota culture.

Nicholas Black Elk stands on the right.  Recently, Black Elk was nominated for the canonization process for sainthood. He often melded his Lakota culture with his Christian faith, which he taught to many. Mounted on the pipe in his hands rests a buffalo, which is a symbolic figure to Christ because it gave everything of itself to Native people. The three feathers represent the Holy Trinity.

“As you can see, there are a collection of small, almost hidden, elements that work together to bring a lot of meaning to this mural if you look closely,” said Br. Mickey.

A St. Joseph’s student helps paint a part of the mural, which is located in the campus health center.

And a close look is something many St. Joseph’s students and staff are doing as they walk by. You can’t help but stop to take it all in.

Clare, St. Joseph’s Mission Integration Director, was one such person. She helped coordinate the mural project between Br. Mickey and St. Joseph’s.

“It’s very beautiful, isn’t it?” she said.

It’s true. The once overlooked space, is now truly beautiful.

Pilamayathank you – to Br. Mickey McGrath for painting this beautiful mural for St. Joseph’s Indian School and for donor support that makes projects like this possible!

Author: St. Joseph's Indian School

At St. Joseph's Indian School, our privately-funded programs for Lakota (Sioux) children in need have evolved over 90 years of family partnership, experience and education. Because of generous friends who share tax-deductible donations, Native American youth receive a safe, stable home life; individual counseling and guidance; carefully planned curriculum based on Lakota culture and individual student needs and tools to help build confidence, boost self-esteem and improve cultural awareness. All of this helps children to live a bright, productive, possibility-filled future.

8 thoughts on “From Blank to Beautiful – Mural Livens Health Center Waiting Room”

  1. A very beautiful painting 🙂 It was really well done, and has a lot of scared meanings to it and symbols, they did such a fantastic job!

  2. My wife, Anne, has been a contributor to St. Joseph’s for a long time, and we also have the honor of knowing Brother Mickey, OSFS through our parish and my university. We followed his story on this work via his emails. I am very happy that you found each other. Perhaps, this Summer, Anne and I will have the opportunity to visit your school so that we will also have the honor of getting the know some of the students and staff on a first name basis as well. Thank you and Brother Mickey for sharing this work with all of us!

  3. SO BEAUTIFUL. Have you every thought about using that on material. For example a blanket or a bag. Or just making smaller painting. I would definitely buy it if you do decided to. It’s breathtaking, just so beautiful. God bless you Brother.

    1. That’s a wonderful idea! The mural is new, so ideas like that have not been explored yet, but we will pass that on!

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