Mary Arts (Catholic Herald photo by Jenny Snarski)

Anita Draper
Catholic Herald staff

Editor’s note: This is one of a series of features on finalists for the Superior Diocesan Council of Catholic Women’s 2019 Pax Christi Award. Finalists were recognized in June at SDCCW’s annual convention.

Much has changed since Mary Arts was a child. Raised in Chicago, she went to Catholic school and attended Mass every day.

“I came from a big Catholic family. There were 11 of us,” said the Pax Christi finalist, who was the second-oldest child. “It was a whole different era then, I’ll tell you.”

Her family was always very close to their priest – the boys went to ball games with him, and she remembers the kids sorting envelopes from the collection and counting the money.

A member of St. Mary Catholic Church, Bruce, Arts misses that time of innocence.

“We just thought our priests were, you know, God,” she laughed.

“Of course I was going to be a nun,” she added, but life intervened. “I came from a big family. I had to go to work right away. You know, everybody has to eat. It kind of just gets away from you.”

Her vocational path led instead to marriage, and Arts and her husband, Phillip, moved to Bruce in 1972 so he could work on his father’s mink ranch.

The couple had five children, one of whom is deceased, and they now have nine grandchildren and three great-grandchildren.

Devout, a member of the Seven Sisters Apostolate, and inclined to seek intercession from St. Francis and St. Jude when times are tough, Arts was recognized for both her faith and her dedication when she was named a finalist for the Superior Diocesan Council of Catholic Women’s 2019 Pax Christi Award.

No woman is ever nominated for the honor without having given significantly of her time and talent, and Arts has been deeply active in her parish for years.

A volunteer for events, ministries and the church’s resale shop, she serves as lector, Eucharistic minister and member of the PCCW and the environmental committee, which is charge of decorating the church according to the liturgical season.

Arts is also passionate about giving back to her community, working on fundraisers for those with special needs and donating her time and culinary talents for many worthy causes.

“My true love is the holiday gift shop at the school,” she said. The event has nothing to do with the church – the two institutions are “very separate, in fact” – but “it is amazing.”

By her description, Arts is only one of a group of Catholic women who are energetic and dedicated.

“I have a lot of energy. I’m surrounded by women in our parish who are all the same way,” she added. “We all want to keep our church going.”

“Our husbands are very cooperative,” she said. “My husband says in the morning, ‘Well, where are you going today?’”

Arts usually stays at home only one day a week. When she’s not volunteering, she has two passions – cooking and reading.

“I love to cook,” she said. “After I retired, I went into the catering business, and did that until I was 74.”

But, she couldn’t stand to leave, so she now cooks for banquets at Eastbay Lodge in Holcombe. She loves beautiful dishes and garnishes: “I’m all about presentation. I’d rather cook for 200 people than two.”

Mysteries are her reading pick – Arts loves authors James Patterson and John Sandford, “but I really will read any kind of a mystery. Doesn’t matter.”

For Arts, learning she was a nominee, then a finalist, for the SDCCW’s annual award was an honor.
“I thought it was wonderful,” she said.