By Lindsay Steele
The Catholic Messenger
BURLINGTON — This Sunday, Catholics around the diocese will reflect on the image of Divine Mercy, originally described by Polish nun Saint Faustina Kowalska in the 1930s as part of her encounter with Jesus. It’s an image that holds special significance for many Catholics in Burlington, who receive a visual reminder of Christ’s Divine Mercy each time they drive past the local Catholic radio station.
Long before the parishes in Burlington and West Burlington merged to form Divine Mercy Parish, the local Catholic radio station, KCDM, bore the name. “Our Catholic radio group, officially known as Burlington Divine Mercy Association, has always used the call sign KCDM and we consider it to stand for ‘Know Christ’s Divine Mercy,’” said KCDM Treasurer Jean Ballinger, a Divine Mercy parishioner.
After moving to a new building south of Notre Dame Catholic Schools in 2015, the station wanted to commission a painting of the Divine Mercy image to display on the exterior. The radio station didn’t have a lot of money to spend but it didn’t matter. Catholics with local roots stepped up to make the painting possible.
Ballinger’s daughter, Susan Ballinger Reinier, is a self-taught artist living in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. When her mother mentioned the radio station’s desire to commission a painting of the Divine Mercy, Reinier offered to complete the painting at a reduced rate. “I researched the images for the Divine Mercy and read the written description by St. Faustina in order to create the best painting I could possibly do. …I tried to convey an understanding and compassionate image of Jesus.”
According to St. Faustina’s diaries, Jesus appeared to her in a vision, with his right hand raised in a blessing and his left hand touching his garment above his heart. Red and white rays emanated from his heart, symbolizing the blood and water poured out for mankind’s salvation and sanctification. In the vision, the Lord requested that “Jesus, I trust in You” be inscribed under the image. He asked that the image be painted and venerated throughout the world, promising that the soul that will venerate this image will not perish.
Reinier chose to paint the 4-feet by 5-feet Divine Mercy image on a composite aluminum panel using acrylic paint. “I usually prefer to work in oils, but I wanted to make sure it has the best chance of lasting as long as possible in the Iowa weather. The colors can change a bit with acrylics from when they are wet to when they dry, and they dry quickly, so it was definitely a challenge.”
Another challenge was the painting’s size. Reinier drove back and forth to Burlington every couple of weeks for several months to paint in the basement of her parents’ house. Ballinger loved watching her daughter “bring Jesus to life right here in our home.”
Bob and Diane Mansheim, members of Divine Mercy Parish, offered to make a donation for the painting on behalf of their son, Matthew Hallman, who passed away from a genetic illness in his early 50s. “He loved listening to the radio station,” Diane Manshiem said.
Diane often turns to the Divine Mercy image for comfort and hope. Her first husband died at age 29 of the disease that would eventually take Matthew and another son, Curtis. A young widow with four children to raise, she eventually met Bob, a widower with three children of his own. Together, they endeavored to raise a loving, faith-filled family, adding two more children to the mix. “Looking at the image of Divine Mercy has been soothing,” Diane said.
She shares this hope with others as a member of Divine Mercy Parish’s health ministry, where she prays the Divine Mercy Chaplet with people who are sick or dying. Ballinger added, “She leaves Divine Mercy pamphlets at (the local) hospice house and various other locations with her phone number to call her if anyone would like her to come out to pray the chaplet.”
The big reveal
Reinier completed the painting in time for the Divine Mercy weekend in 2016. Bishop Emeritus Bishop Amos took part in the celebrations and blessed the painting.
Seeing the painting for the first time, Diane Mansheim was in awe. She had seen many Divine Mercy images over the years, but Reinier’s stands out. While most images Diane has seen depict Jesus looking slightly downward, in Reinier’s painting Jesus “is looking at us.”
Diane Mansheim had prints made of the painting to display in her home. She hopes individuals who see Reinier’s original painting in Burlington will feel the sense of hope she has received from viewing the image.
To Reinier, the image “is a reminder that miracles can happen. We just have to put our trust in him.”