MANKATO, Minn. (WCCO) — The sawing and chipping sounds coming from a wood shop in Mankato mean another work of art is in progress.
Detailed wooden sculptures come out of the shop, many with religious symbolism. The surprising part, though, is who’s making them.
Sister Mary Ann Osborne, 64, is with the School Sisters of Notre Dame, an organization devoted to helping the poor and educating women and children.
Since 1988, Sister Mary has been a woodworking artist with a divine way of using cutting tools.
“It definitely is a gift,” she said. “And when I make pieces, a lot of times, I know those aren’t my ideas. They just come to me.”
Her wood carving studio is on the campus of Our Lady of Good Counsel in Mankato.
“I come in the morning, and we have mass at 11 and then I come back in the afternoon,” she said.
Her hands have created award-winning works, on display around the U.S. and parts of Europe.
“I have a piece in Rome,” she said. “I won a competition there and so I won a trip there.”
Sister Mary Ann’s first job was as a grade school teacher in the 1970s.
“I loved the kids but I just knew that that wasn’t what I was supposed to do,” she said. “But I couldn’t figure out what I was supposed to do. And so I taught for 13 years and then it was like, ‘Huh, maybe this is what I’m supposed to do.'”
She hopes her artworks serve a different kind of educational purpose, by inspiring those who see them.
“I think it’s a porthole that they can just enter in and maybe think about their relationship with God and how he’s always in our midst no matter where we are,” she said.
Creative expression is her personal form of worship, one that may challenge a few assumptions along the way.
“And then they find out I’m the one, they’re quite surprised I guess, for whatever reason,” she said. “I guess I don’t look like it’s possible or something, I don’t know.”
Sister Mary Ann’s work is featured in several churches around Mankato and in the Twin Cities — including two pieces in the Basilica.
She does nearly all her sales from her studio on campus. She tells people if the lights are on, she’s there, so “come on in.”
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