By Lou Allocco
As you look toward the front of our church, you will notice two very distinctive and striking paintings on either side of the altar of our patron saint Elizabeth Ann Seton. The painting on the left side depicts a beautiful, free-spirited, adventurous young woman enjoying the fullness of life, while the one on the right shows an older, more subdued devout servant of God. Both of these paintings capture the essence of this remarkable woman on her journey through life to become America’s first-born canonized saint. These paintings greatly enhance our church, and they are the creation of a young gifted artist named Khanh Nguyen.
Khanh, 18, has had a passion for painting and drawing which began when she was only 5 years old, and her talent was already becoming apparent when she was in kindergarten. The inspiration for these paintings came in recognition of the 200th anniversary of St. Elizabeth Seton’s death. At the time she began this project, she knew very little about St. Elizabeth Seton, and did considerable research into her life in order to provide her with the knowledge she needed to accurately portray her on canvas. One particular fact that made an impression on Khanh was that St. Elizabeth was a Catholic convert.
Khanh says that it took her about 3 months to complete each painting. Her process involved several layers of revisions, painstakingly doing these paintings over and over until she was satisfied that the images correctly reflected who the saint really was. She went to great lengths to ensure that the spirit and expression of each image accomplished this purpose.
Khanh wanted the painting of the younger Elizabeth to show her as an adventurous woman with a love for life, indicated by her long wavy hair. The boats in this portrait are meant to symbolize her trip to Italy (which Elizabeth made in an attempt to obtain help for her ailing husband William). The portrait of the older Elizabeth shows her as someone who is kind, compassionate, and virtuous. Khanh says that it took multiple attempts to convey this image, and she was careful that Elizabeth didn’t appear to be stern, but loving. The saint is depicted in this portrait dressed in the garments adopted by the religious order she founded.
In addition to these paintings of our patron saint, Khanh has also painted the Christmas posters used in our parish.
Khanh and her family have been members of St. Elizabeth Seton since August, 2017. Besides her painting, Khanh is also involved in other activities in our parish. She and her sister Quan are altar servers and regularly attend the Bible class offered here. In addition, they are both involved with volunteering at our church, and helped out with Vacation Bible School this past summer. Khanh indicated that she wants to continue with her involvement as a volunteer here, and she also expressed an interest in the music ministry as a member of the choir.
It is truly gratifying to see such outstanding young people like Khanh and her sister so active in various roles in our faith community. They and other sincere youth like them are the future of our Church and they give us all hope, not only at our own parish, but for the entire Body of Christ.