Tonawanda News

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December 19, 2013

Ribits a godsend for O'Hara art students

A recognized priest-artist joins faculty at Cardinal O'Hara High School

Tonawanda News — Ever since he was a boy, the Rev. Thomas Ribits, OSFS, recalls his love of art — a passion that turned into his life’s work.

Ribits, a priest in the Order of St. Francis deSales, grew up Detroit. For 24 years, Ribits taught elementary and high school students at Nardin Academy in Buffalo, then was campus minister at D’Youville College before taking a sabbatical to devote more attention to his art work.

Last year, he joined the faculty at Cardinal O’Hara High School in the Town of Tonawanda to teach advanced art and religion.

Known throughout the O’Hara building as “Father Tom,” Ribits said he’s enjoying the school and students.

“I find the kids are down to earth, with genuine care and concern for each other,” Ribits said.

His background extends from earning a degree in theology in Toronto to a master of arts from Buffalo State, drawing courses at the Detroit Institute of Art and taking other art courses along the way.

Ribits established the Salesian Studio in Buffalo, provided by his order, where he has his art studio.

Among his many accomplishments are murals at St. Joseph’s Cathedral in Buffalo and an enormous mural project at the Catholic Center in Buffalo.

“The mock-up for the (Catholic Center) mural took six months,” he said. “‘To finish the work took 13 months, working 50 to 60 hours a week, while teaching at the same time. I would work from 5 to 7 a.m., celebrate 7:30 a.m. Mass, then teach, returning to work on the mural from 3 to 9 p.m. — an all day project.” 

“I had a lot of energy,” he laughed.

Mary Holzerland, principal at O’Hara, said when she first met Ribits, she knew he belonged at O’Hara, which she noted, has a tradition of a strong art program.

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