Visitors pulling into the parking lot of Our Lady of Angels Convent might glimpse a small-built woman going into one of the low stone buildings that line the edge of the parking lot. The woman is most likely Sr. Christopher Marie Wagner, the congregation’s itinerant artist, and the building houses her art studio. Visit Sr. Chris inside the studio and you’ll find a wonderland where bits of glass and solder are fashioned into stained glass windows and sanctuary lamps and where jars of paint produce beautiful icons.

Sr. Chris’ schedule varies daily. She might spend part of her day in the studio either repairing older stained glass windows or designing and fabricating new ones. A few years ago, visitors to the motherhouse chapel would have found her up

When she restored all of the stained glass windows in chapel, Sr. Chris frequently had to work on scaffolding–both indoors and outdoors–on tiers of scaffolding re-installing the stained glass windows she had just refurbished. It goes without saying that this was a massive and time-consuming occupation.

Other days find Sr. Chris heading over to Assisi House where she’ll work with a small group of sisters on simple art projects. She finds this aspect of her ministry particularly rewarding. “Their simplicity and acceptance of their situation inspires me and teaches me to be compassionate and loving,” she explained.

Looking Back

Sr. Chris first met the Sisters of St. Francis when her family moved to St. Anthony of Padua Parish in Baltimore. She was in 6th grade at the time and was taught by the sisters during her three years in the parish school After graduating from 8th grade, she went to the Catholic High School of Baltimore—and there again met and was taught by the Franciscan sisters.

“I’ve always wanted to be a religious,” Sr. Chris said. After her years of being educated by the Sisters of St. Francis, she knew that God was calling her to follow the Franciscan way of life. “I cannot conceive of life for me in any other way,” she explained. I know that this is the life God planned for me. I am truly ‘at home’ as a Sister of St. Francis.”

For most of Sr. Chris’ life in the congregation, she ministered in a school setting—initially teaching second grade. Later she taught art on both secondary and college levels.

Exploring New Horizons

About 15 years ago, Sr. Chris began working with icons. She now holds workshops and retreats on icon writing (painting) both at the Franciscan Spiritual Center in Aston and at the Springbank Retreat Center in South Carolina. As part of the workshops, she teaches participants about the history of icons, about the theology that underlies each work, and about the use of symbolism. Each participant completes an icon which is later blessed during a prayer service. Sr. Julie Keegan did a very informative blog post describing some of the activities at one of Chris’ workshops. Visit the spiritual center’s new blog,, to read it. Sr. Chris herself enjoys writing icons and late afternoon or evenings might find her working on an icon of Jesus, Mary, or one of the angels or saints.

A Woman of Many Talents

When she’s not busy with her stained glass work, her iconography, and her workshops, Sr. Chris is often sharing her talents with the sisters in other ways. You’ll frequently notice her art work citied in various programs sent out by the congregation. She also loves reading and enjoys being out in nature, watching good movies, doing crocheting and knitting, and, occasionally, traveling. She’s able to visit her mother each month and enjoys visits with her family.

Spending time with and sharing ideas with other artists is a special treat. Some years ago Sr. Chris joined a program called the Brown Bag Franciscan Community for the Arts. The group includes women and men—both religious and lay—whose interests and talents lie in the broader fields of art—for example, painting, poetry, music, and dance. They gather yearly, usually at the spiritual center in Aston, and spend a few days of sharing their gifts and their artistic endeavors. The group also publishes a newsletter which Sr. Chris compiles and edits.

For Sr. Chris, her ministry as an artist is most certainly a way of using the talent with which she has been gifted. But it is much more. “My ministry gives me the feeling of accomplishment,” she explained. “I’m doing something which brings joy to others, raises their spirits, and inspires them. My art work is an expression of the love of God for each of us.”