A HISTORY OF ST. JOHN THE BAPTIST CATHOLIC PARISH
The Grand Arch Mural
One aspect of the church redecoration that received a bit of extra attention was the Grand Arch Mural which graces the span above the sanctuary entrance. It received a thorough cleaning as part of the redecoration. The mural was blessed and dedicated on April 27th, 1947 on the occasion of the 50th anniversary of the parish. It is the result of much study and work of Chicago artist Ludwig Scheuerle.
The mural itself traces the roots of the Slovak people in the Catholic faith; first in Europe and then to America and to the parishioners of St. John the Baptist. At the center and focus of the mural is Jesus the Lamb of God. The Lamb is shown as described in the Book of Apocalypse with seven seals, blood flowing from its side, surrounded with bright rays of heavenly light. The Lamb is placed in the center of the Tree of Life, the tree’s golden branches wind themselves around and in between the various scenes uniting the entire mural with their life giving embrace. Beneath the Tree is the the Fount of Grace, a spring representing the seven Sacraments whose flowing waters provide life-giving nourishment.
To the right of the Tree is St. John the Baptist, patron saint of our parish. To the left is St. Andrew, traditionally known as the apostle of the East and the Patron of the Slovak peoples. To St. Andrew’s right and below him are two brothers preaching. These are the two apostles of the Slovak people in the ninth century, St. Cyril (in black) and St. Methodius (in gold).
Following downward from St. Methodius is St. Gaspar del Bufalo, apostle of the Precious Blood and founder of the missionaries of the Precious Blood. Last on the left side of the Mural Arch is Slovak Prince Pribina and the Slovak people accepting the faith preached by St. Cyril. In the distance are the famous Tatra Mountains.
To the right of St. John the Baptist, on the right half of the mural is Father Jaques Marquette, the sainted Jesuit missionary and discoverer whose travels brought him to our region of America on his historic mission to the Indians. In the background is Lake Michigan which the French named Lake Illinois.
Below Fr. Marquette is Father Francis Brunner, a member of the missionaries of the Precious Blood who brought many missionaries to the United States in 1844. In this portrait, Fr. Brunner is preaching to residents of the Ohio farmlands.
Just below Fr. Brunner is Father Furdek, organizer of many Slovak Societies and Fraternal Orders in the United States presenting a charter of foundations to one of the parish’s families.
Finally, on the bottom right portion of the Grand Arch Mural, is Father Benedict Rajcany, the first pastor of St. John Parish, with the first St. John Church pictured in the background. His is looking into the future anticipating the growing success of the parish. To the rear of the portrait can be seen the growing industrial complex previously called Standard Oil, now British Petroleum. Surrounding Fr. Benedict are parishioners of various ages representing the many who built and continue to make up the family of St. John the Baptist Parish.