Wednesday, June 5, 2013


 Ann O' Connor's  artistic creations included Origami work.
Photo  courtesy of Carolyn Backis (c) 2013

" For some reason, I grew up thinking that to be an artist one had to be able to draw. I also believed that creativity was something only artists had. Since I was not able to draw very well, I thought I could never be an artist, and therefore, I suppose for consistency's sake, I also believed I was not creative. I have no idea whether I might have chosen the path of an artist, but the fact is that it was not open to me. It was not within the realm of possibility in my mind".
Ann O' Connor,
The Twelve Unbreakable Principles Of Parenting
ACTA  Publications 2006

When Ann O' Connor passed away on April 24, 2013, she left a tremendous legacy. Ann had been the Faith Formation Coordinator  at St. Gertrude's Catholic Parish in Chicago. She brought to the church, and to every person who met her, a sense of wonder and beauty that can only be found with those truly connected to the world. Ann was more than a " coordinator", she was an artist who used her creative talents to teach and inspire, leaving a mark on the people who knew her. 

It was completely impossible to know Ann and not absolutely adore her. She was one of those people who’s inner light shone out in almost every encounter with her. For everything that was shown on the outside, what was happening on the inside was far more special.

Ann O' Connor and I
Holy Saturday 2000
Ann was curious about the world and loved to examine it. Whether it was in the morning while she was walking her dog along the beach as the sun came up, or by visiting an art museum and noticing something new to ponder, Ann would examine things from every perspective she could imagine. She would investigate and think long and deep about everything that presented itself to her. When she finally made a decision about something, she would share it from a perspective that made it poetic.

Her thoughts didn't just range on what was, but also how little things could be changed to provide a better experience. One fantastic example of this a story she shares in her book The Twelve Unbreakable Principles Of Parenting. She and her family were participating in a country wide grassroots symbolic effort to promote energy conservation known as "Roll Your Own Blackout" in which people  turned off all electricity for three hours. As she and her family gathered around, her son grabbed the box where the candles were stored. As she watched him open the box, she immediately regretted the fact that the candles within were cheap, broken, and used. She wished that the box had contained fine beeswax candles in pastel colors, individually wrapped with different flavors. She felt that if that had been the case, the scents would have become intwined in her children's memories of childhood and whenever they would smell those smells in the future, the kids would remember their house and the experience of growing up. She took the time to look at something ordinary and think of a way to make it extraordinary. 

In addition to co-authoring A Guide to the windows
of St. Gertrude, 
 and writing for US Catholic, Ann published
her own book in 2006

Ann looked at the world with an artist’s mind. She loved art, but was unable to draw. She loved music but was unable to play an instrument. These roadblocks did not stop the creative spirit inside of her, instead she found ways around them and used her creativity in such a way that was unique and inspiring. She collected. She invented, She instructed. She created. She wrote. 

Ann was greatly inspired by The Artist's Way
by Julia Cameron

" is not only drawing but it is everything: music, theater, dance, photography, writing, cooking gardening, conversation- anything, in fact, that is accomplished with truth and beauty in short, art is life and life is art."

"Human beings cannot not create. Creativity is not something only artists do, it's something we all do everyday, whether we are aware of it or not"

Ann put together books of poetry, some of which were striking, sad, and yet completely beautiful. She used these to teach, but they served another function – they helped her to understand the world. When she showed them to others she took their experiences and their perspectives and rolled them into her own. Then she gave them back, in her own unique way. Using what she learned from all kinds of different sources, ranging from lectures and readings to live theater and dance, to invent situations and rituals which allowed the participants to enter into the sacred stories themselves. The interesting thing about this is that these creations spawned new ideas and new creations from Ann themselves. The cycle she started continued to move forward and create from itself.

Some of Ann's Origami work courtesy of Carolyn Backis (c) 2013

On the Prepare The Word website, where  Ann had been a contributing author, she is listed as a "writer, bookbinder, and paper artist". While all this is true, it does little to describe her.  Ann O' Connor was a creative spirit who used art to it's fullest, allowing it to touch every aspect of her life and then turning it into something that touched others lives. She was truly one of a kind.

One of Ann's many mobiles which hangs in the
back of St Gertrude's parish. Photo taken  from
St. Gertrude's bulletin for April 28,2013