“Dominus vobiscum”Fond du Lac artist Chuck Wydeven, a member of Holy Family Church, preserves the memory of his former pastor, Fr. Vic Capriolo, in this sketch of the priest who was killed in a bicycle accident two years ago. (Catholic Herald photo by Steve Wideman)

Chuck Wydeven often impulsively switched roles on Fr. Victor “Vic” Capriolo after Mass by greeting him with the Latin translation of “The Lord be with you.”

“Et cum spiritu tuo (and with your spirit),” Fr. Vic would calmly reply without skipping a beat as the two exchanged knowing smiles outside Holy Family Church in Fond du Lac.

Fr. Vic’s gracious and often humorous ways attracted friendly harassment from parish members like Wydeven, a retired Catholic schools art instructor.

“Dominus vobiscum. That was one of the personal connections I had with Fr. Vic,” he said.

When Wydeven heard the news on Aug. 21, 2012, that Fr. Vic died while attempting to cross U.S. 151 on his bicycle, Wydeven’s impulsiveness, coupled with his long desire as an artist to capture in paint, pencil or chalk a person’s soul, led him to a quick decision.


Name: Chuck Wydeven

Age: 64

Parish: Holy Family Catholic Community, Fond du Lac

Occupation: Retired Catholic schools art teacher, portrait artist

Favorite hobby: Art, music and playing electric guitar

Favorite church hymn: “Amazing Grace”

Favorite song: “Across the Universe” (Beatles, December 1969 release)

Favorite quote: “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father in heaven” Mt 7:21.

“Fr. Vic was the good shepherd Christ preached about. He was a good pastor. I made the decision to draw a portrait of Fr. Vic the same day he died. It wasn’t something I planned out. I wanted the parishioners to have something to remember him by,” Wydeven said.

The result was a larger-than-life portrait of Fr. Vic that Wydeven donated to the parish about a year ago.

“I felt a connection to Fr. Vic. I knew him personally,” Wydeven said.

Impulsive passion is no stranger to Wydeven.

The June 2009 death of a 26-year-old Iranian woman, Neda Agha-Soltan, shot to death protesting the election of Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, sparked Wydeven’s impulse.

“I had an art show coming up and I thought she was a hero, so I wanted people to know who she was, so I drew a portrait of her using black and white colored pencils to include in the show,” Wydeven said.

Wydeven’s portrait of Agha-Soltan sits on the floor of Wydeven’s home studio, nestled in a corner beneath one of several posters of The Beatles and next to an electric guitar Wydeven often uses as a hands-on musical means to focus and relax.

A native of Kimberly, Wydeven recalls Feb. 9, 1964, when he and his parents watched history being made as The Beatles made their first live television performance on The Ed Sullivan Show.

“I was 13 years old. I thought, ‘Boy. This is the greatest thing I ever saw or listened to.’ It inspired me to learn to play the guitar, which has been a lifelong love for me,” Wydeven said. “I still love The Beatles’ music. What I like about the Beatles is if you listen to their songs from the first to the most recent you see a growth in them musically.”

“In a similar sense I’m very aware of my spiritual growth. I don’t want to be stagnant. I want tomorrow to be better than yesterday,” Wydeven said. “The Catholic Church gives me a lot of tools for spiritual growth. It’s like take what you need and leave the rest for the time being. I relate that to the Beatles and their music. Take what you like and leave the rest.”

Wydeven expressed his interest in the Beatles by sketching their likenesses.

“Before the Beatles I did a lot of sketches of the Green Bay Packers because they were of interest to me,” he said.

A relative who operates an art gallery noticed Wydeven’s artistic talent as a high school student and recommended he pursue a career in art.

Wydeven heeded the advice and graduated from the University of Wisconsin Oshkosh with a major in art.

“I went to college to major in art education, but I didn’t like the education courses, so I just majored in art,” he said.

After his first two years of college, Wydeven took a two-year hiatus from his studies to play lead guitar in a Fox Cities bluegrass band before returning to school, graduating and obtaining a teaching license.

His first teaching job was as an art teacher in the Unified Catholic Parish School (now St. Katharine Drexel School) in Beaver Dam.

He took advantage of a merger of Catholic schools in Fond du Lac to land a job teaching art to middle school students at St. Mary’s Springs Academy in Fond du Lac.

Wydeven retired from Springs after 20 years.

Portraits he drew in the larger-than-life style of Fr. Vic, portraits drawn by Wydeven to teach his students by example his favored technique of using only black and white pencils or chalk on colored paper, are stacked in his home art studio.

“I use black and white chalk or colored pencils to give the portraits a strong, three-dimensional effect,” Wydeven said. “The portraits seem to come alive. People love the technique. I think the drawing of Fr. Vic comes alive and I wanted parish members to see that and celebrate his life and memory.”

The key to painting Fr. Vic’s portrait was in the eyes, Wydeven said.

“I wanted to make sure the eyes were perfect, because Fr. Vic always had that special look in his eyes, a look of great spiritual awareness. I wanted people looking at the drawing of Fr. Vic to see a man who was very spiritual and personable, a man who wanted to talk and share ideas with everyone,” Wydeven said.

Holy Family is blessed to have the support of a number of parishioners like Wydeven over the months since Fr. Vic’s death, said Fr. Ryan Pruess, one of the in solidum team priests at Holy Family.

“Efforts like those of Chuck Wydeven to draw the portrait of Fr. Vic have helped us in the process of grieving over the loss of Fr. Vic,” Fr. Pruess said. “We are very appreciative of the work Chuck did.” 

Wydeven personally recalls challenging Fr. Vic often with questions about the Apocryphal gospels – gospels, for various reasons, not included in the New Testament.

“Fr. Vic believed in church dogma, but never condemned people for having other thoughts,” Wydeven said.

Fr. Vic’s portrait isn’t the first drawing he donated to a Catholic church or school.

A painting of Jesus encountering Peter, John and James sleeping in the Garden of Gethsemane on the Mount of Olives was executed by Wydeven and donated to St. Katharine Drexel School in Beaver Dam as a gift from the school’s faculty.

Several years ago, Wydeven heard Holy Family staff were cleaning church-related items from St. Joseph Church, one of several Fond du Lac churches closed in consolidation moves.

Among the items in the church was a painting by Wydeven to honor two long-time St. Joseph parish members active in Catholic education classes.

“They were going to sell the church and I told Fr. Vic I didn’t want the painting to get thrown away or sold. He assured me the painting would be brought out and taken to Holy Family and placed in protective storage,” Wydeven said.

Thoughts of Fr. Vic’s kindness and friendship occupied Wydeven’s mind as he wrestled with news of the priest’s death.

“You go through the denial and then the acceptance,” Wydeven said of sorting out Fr. Vic’s death and deciding to draw his portrait. “I picked purple as a color for the paper because it just seemed to fit Fr. Vic.”

Work on the drawing began in January 2013.

“It took me more than 40 hours of work over several months,” Wydeven said. “It’s a very tedious and time consuming task drawing a huge portrait like I did of Fr. Vic. Sometimes I would just get tired of working on it and set it aside for a few days. Many times I said to myself, ‘That doesn’t look like Fr. Vic at all.’”

In the end, Wydeven was pleased that the portrait conveys the many attributes of Fr. Vic felt by parish members.

“Everyone in the parish had a connection with Fr. Vic. It was like having a secret handshake or an inside joke. Everyone that knew Fr. Vic had a special relationship with him. 

That’s what I wanted to remind people of,” Wydeven said. “Fr. Vic was a good shepherd. He was here to free the lambs, like it says in the Bible.”