March 2023

Artist Terry St Ledger depicts Ministerial Women for the 21st Century

One of the highlights of the Blessing and Opening of the newly renovated Sisters of the Good Samaritan Congregational Centre in Glebe last month was the unveiling of a series of specially commissioned artworks, entitled The Ministerial Women, by artist Terry St Ledger.

Artist Terry St Ledger. Image supplied.

The etchings depict Mary of Magdala – Apostle to the Apostles; Phoebe – Deacon, as named by St Paul; St Frances of Rome – Benedictine Oblate; Martha Sarahes – a Good Samaritan Sister and Pacifican; and St Josephine Bakhita – Seeker of Freedom.

“They are truly beautiful,” said Congregational Leader Sister Patty Fawkner during the Blessing and Opening liturgy.

Based in Brisbane, artist Terry St Ledger said he was delighted to receive the commission and was looking forward to coming to Sydney and seeing his works hanging in their new home, the beautifully renovated and restored historic Toxteth House.

“I’m very honoured that my artwork is hanging in such a beautiful space,” he said.

Image: St Mary of Magdala @ Terry St Ledger 2023/ Sisters of the Good Samaritan.

Terry has had a long association with the Catholic Church in the Archdiocese of Brisbane, providing artwork for the cover of Liturgy Brisbane’s annual title, Break Open the Word, a resource which is well known and loved in parishes around Australia.

He also provides artwork for Liturgy Brisbane’s Daily Mass Book, and other work as requested.

It was the Director of Liturgy Brisbane, Father Tom Elich, who initially put Terry in touch with Good Samaritan Sister Jill O’Brien, who was seeking, on behalf of the Sisters, to commission a similar style of artwork for The Ministerial Women.

Terry said he commenced work on the series in the middle of last year. “I was emailing back and forth with Jill and Elizabeth (Good Samaritan Sister Elizabeth Brennan) about the style of artwork they were looking for and they provided me with information about each of the women I would be drawing.

Image: St Phoebe the Deacon @ Terry St Ledger 2023/ Sisters of the Good Samaritan.

“I also liaised with the architects in charge of the building renovations.

“I spent a fair bit of time online, watching YouTube videos about each of the individual women and getting to know more about them and their lives. It was fascinating. Apart from Mary Magdalen, I didn’t really know of the others, so it was good to find out more about them.”

Terry’s first job was to draw up ‘pencil roughs’ of each of the women and work from there.

“Each of the works has a central portrait of the woman depicted surrounded by a montage of some scenes from their life and ministry, telling a little bit of their story.”

“When I start a work like this, I get as much information as I can from the people I’m working for and from there, I start to form an image in my head.

Image: St Frances of Rome @ Terry St Ledger 2023/ Sisters of the Good Samaritan.

“This is my favourite thing to do – people’s portraits, figure drawing.”

Terry began his art training in the mid-1970s at the Queensland College of Art in Brisbane, studying Commercial Art. “I absolutely adored it,” he said.

While studying, he discovered his love for freehand figure drawing and portraiture, which led him to his first job, working for a major book publisher as an illustrator.

Wanting to expand his knowledge in the Graphic and Fine Arts, he travelled overseas and, as a result, has works hanging in Tuscany (Italy), Calgary (Canada), and Morlaix (France).

Image: St Josephine Bakhita @ Terry St Ledger 2023/ Sisters of the Good Samaritan.

Returning to Brisbane, he pursued a career as a freelance illustrator working with art studios, publishing houses, architectural firms and various sporting bodies, as well as teaching at the Queensland College of Art.

Terry also works with charities, using his talents as a caricature artist and supporting and judging local art competitions as well as judging students’ portfolios for their end-of-year assessments.

Terry said he enjoyed working with various mediums, such as watercolour and pencil, gouache, pastels, acrylics and oils.

The Ministerial Women etchings are mixed media works, using water colour, pencil and pastel. They have then been enlarged using a high-resolution digital scanner for hanging in the Congregational Centre.

Image: Sr Martha Sarahes SGS @ Terry St Ledger 2023/ Sisters of the Good Samaritan.

One of Terry’s tasks was to modernise the images of the women, making them relatable to people in the 21st Century.

“I couldn’t find many modern depictions of these women online,” he said. “With people like Mary Magdalen and Frances of Rome, you are looking at centuries-old artwork, so there was a good challenge there.”

Although semi-retired, Terry is open to considering new commissions. “I absolutely enjoyed doing this job and I’m hoping to do a lot more of that kind of subject matter in the future,” he said.

The Blessing and Opening of the Congregational Centre took place on February 2 this year, the Feast of the Presentation of Christ in the Temple, and the 166th anniversary of the foundation of the Sisters of the Good Samaritan.


Debra Vermeer

Debra Vermeer is a freelance journalist working in both Catholic and mainstream media.

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