This web site is a memorial to those individuals who were passionate about the reform of the
Roman Catholic liturgy as set forth in Sacrosanctum Concilium (the Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy)
and who now, in eternal life, worship the God whom they served in this life.

Barbara Chenicek, OP

Barbara Chenicek, OP
April 7, 1933 - October 13, 2015

Sister Barbara Chenicek’s life and work as an Adrian Dominican Sister for more than 60 years embodied a mix of dedication, focus, creativity and beauty.

Born in Chicago, Sister Barbara studied at the Art Institute of Chicago and then went on to earn her bachelor’s and her Master’s of Fine Arts degrees at Siena Heights College (now University) in Adrian.

She directed the art department at both Aquinas High School in Chicago and at Rosary High School in Detroit. From 1966 to 1973, she taught design, drawing and painting at SHU.

Her love for art started at a early age and it was a talent with which many say she was probably born. Her brother Don Chenicek remembers her as focused, talented and driven, yet always thinking of others.

“I clearly remember thinking, ‘Barbara has a remarkable future in front of her,’” he said looking back at the summers they spent as children when she would paint the fields of prairie grass at the family farm in South Dakota.

He said her talents have origin in their uncle Albert, who was a bit of a Renaissance man with talents for writing and art, which inspired Sister Barbara. Chenicek said his sister was always fully committed to whatever she did. This eventually led her into the life that would take her to the Motherhouse in Adrian, where her talents grew and began to take permanent shape through various projects.

Cervenka said in remembering Sister Barbara one has to think of the deep collaboration and friendship she had with Sister Rita Schiltz.

“They were wonderful collaborators and shared a special friendship,” Cervenka said.

Sister Rita, also from Chicago, specialized in working with metals. She attended the same high school, but was slightly older than Sister Barbara. It was in Adrian where they connected and both knew they had “something here” in acting as a team.

They would go on to spend their lives working and creating as one.

The seed of their creations originally came from the need to seize upon the main message of Vatican II, which was to throw open the windows of the Catholic Church so that those in the church could see out and the people outside could see in. Back in Adrian, the two artists took this message and began creating art installations called environments with each one depicting different messages. They would go on to create 48 of them.

However, the bulk of their career began 43 years ago when they refurbished the old laundry building on the Motherhouse campus into their studio, named INAI, which is derived from Japanese meaning within a space of time. The studio is a work space, but it has a sense of contemplation and holiness that they would use in other spaces and instill in each project they produced.

They specialized in creating sacred spaces utilizing lighting and structure to produce a contemplative atmosphere. The designs of their worship environments were based around simplicity of form and focus. Throughout all of their projects they always tried to absorb the environment around them and integrate the people there into the final product.

Their first big project was the Dominican Chapel of the Plains, in Great Bend, Kansas, which went on to be recognized as an award-winning design. From there, their design work would go on to be seen at the Oratory at Jubilee Centre in Rome, Carmelite Monastery Chapel in Baltimore, and the Chapel of Hope at Holland Community Hospital in Holland, among others.

Their collaboration culminated with one of their best creations, the 17-foot-tall fabric-appliqued tapestry of 14th-Century Dominican mystic and reformer, St. Catherine of Siena, which has been integrated into the wall of St. Catherine Chapel on the Motherhouse grounds.

Sister Rita said some of things she will remember about her friend was the positivity and focus she brought to their work. She took time this week to reflect about Sister Barbara and said her friend was a profound, deep and kind soul. “We complimented each other,” Sister Rita said in recalling her friend.

Tribute prepared by Lonnie Huhman.