Sister Maryetta Churches, OP, Incorporates Art into Daily Prayer

Sister Maryetta Churches, OP, displays a prayer shawl that she is making, one of the ways that she incorporates art into prayer.

Sister Maryetta Churches, OP, has found a unique and comforting way to get through not only the stresses of the COVID-19 pandemic, but also the adjustments to living at the Adrian Dominican Sisters’ Motherhouse after years of ministering at St. Mary Magdalen Parish in Brighton, Michigan. During her daily prayer, she creates artwork in a journal to complement her reflection of the day.

“When I came here, I started the journal,” Sister Maryetta said. “Every day I have drawn and prayed. It has helped me unbelievably because I believe that my experience of the day, what I pick as my saying, and my prayer go hand-in-hand.” 

Sister Maryetta said her form of prayer has helped her to see God “in so many beautiful ways,” through the experience of her art and through the words that come to her. “One day the prayer was, ‘Note to self: Relax. Relax in the Lord. Relax in God’s love.’ To me, that’s prayer.” She said this form of prayer has helped her to build her relationship with God. “He’s my personal friend who I can talk to,” she said.

Sister Maryetta Churches, OP, shows one of the notebooks in which she creates her art during prayer.

Although she has no formal training in art, Sister Maryetta has been involved in it from a young age and throughout her years of ministry. “When I was a kid, we had to have constructive summers, so we learned to knit,” she recalled. Now, she knits prayer shawls for people in need of comfort. “That’s another form of prayer for me,” she said. “Around here, I can make a prayer shawl in a couple of days.” During her days of parish ministry, she also made prayer shawls with parishioners and gave them as gifts to people suffering from illness.

Through her years of parish ministry, Sister Maryetta has encouraged parishioners to be involved in art. She recalled leading a regional retreat for about 100 seniors. “I brought paints and chalk and crayons and said we’d do prayer a different way,” she said. “It was a beautiful afternoon. As they were leaving, one man said to me, ‘Why didn’t you come here 10 years ago?’”

Sister Maryetta has particularly given the gift of art during her 25 years of ministry at St. Mary Magdalen Parish. Every year for All Souls Day, she created a poster with photos of the parishioners who had died in the past year, with the caption, “Into Your hands, O Lord.” The poster had an impact on the parishioners. “You could see people pass the poster and bless one of the people in the poster,” remembering a friend who had died that year, she said. 

As she prepared to leave St. Mary Magdalen, Sister Maryetta hoped to create something to help the parishioners remember her. “In the middle of the night, I woke up and decided I’d make them a calendar,” she said. “We had 400 of these made,” with every month featuring one of her drawings. She hopes to make another calendar for 2022. 

Perhaps her greatest gift to the parishioners, however, is encouraging them to create their own art. “People are originally afraid to do art with prayer,” she said. “They’ll say, ‘I’m not an artist.’ But you can do art in different ways,” such as drawing, journaling, and word association. 

Sister Maryetta also hopes to pass on her love for art to the Sisters at the Motherhouse by starting a prayer and art group. “Everyone I’ve done [art] with has always thanked me,” she said.