Art removes stones, let's God's voice be heard in the dark

Sr. Ambrose Stachiw takes torn fragments of her life, and offers 'something beautiful to God.'

WCR PHOTO | CHRIS MILLER

Sr. Ambrose Stachiw takes torn fragments of her life, and offers 'something beautiful to God.'

February 27, 2012
CHRIS MILLER
WESTERN CATHOLIC REPORTER

EDMONTON – On Friday night, Feb. 17, Trish Bowie ripped up coloured paper into tiny pieces. Later that night she had a vivid dream, and was inspired the next day to use those shredded pieces to create floral motifs for an art project.

Like other participants at a recent pre-Lent retreat, Bowie was exploring the world of art and prayer.

The retreat at Providence Renewal Centre, Feb. 17-19, was a chance for 20 participants to hear Christ speak to them in the darkness, bringing them into a deeper realization of who they are as resurrected sons and daughters of God.

Bowie was once a fish scale artist whose creations sold worldwide. Her expertise was useful in this new project. Unlike the other participants, whose artwork was flat on the page, Bowie's had a three-dimensional effect, her bright flowers rising from the surface.

Her prayer was for continued growth in God's unconditional love.

"I want to open myself to God. Just as a flower opens, I am here to continue to open myself," said Bowie.

Father Garry LaBoucane led the retreat, Remove the Stone: The Art of Being Set Free. The Oblate priest took them through a process of using art materials to help them overcome a deeper understanding of their call to remove the stones that blocked them from hearing Christ and open the way for newness of life.

Using words, music and dance are ways of expressing oneself through prayer, LaBoucane said. But creating art is yet another way that many Catholics have yet to experience prayer.

Those on the retreat prayed while making art using clay, pencils and watercolours.

TWO GREAT POWERS

"In our own personal lives, rarely do we make art and pray at the same time," said LaBoucane.

He spent his younger years in the Rocky Mountains, before fulfilling his dream of becoming an Oblate priest, working in First Nations communities in Alberta. In 2004 he satisfied another dream when he enrolled in an art therapy class at St. Stephen's College and learned about creating his own art. Since then he has discovered how art can also be used in prayer.

"This weekend is to help people to realize initially that they are all art-makers, and we can do that without judgement."

The participants included Providence staff members, schoolteachers, sisters, and two priests. Aside from Bowie, Sisters Loreto Andrea Leo and Theresa Devine are also experienced artists.

For a Saturday morning project the participants shredded construction paper. In a state of prayer, they assembled the pieces onto a page. Then each of them wrote a sentence on the page incorporating the word "prayer." Every finished creation was completely different from the others.

At 96, Devine was the oldest participant. She recently celebrated her 70th jubilee as a Sister of Providence. She attends daily Mass, works at the Anawim Food Bank and creates beautiful art.

Devine's project was about morning prayer and evening prayer. The bird in flight centred in her picture depicted freedom. She thanked God for the trees and water and especially the music.

For her project, Darlene Clarke had photos of her two children, now grown. The same colours shown in the photo she incorporated into her picture. Following a 12-year marriage, when her children were aged three and five, she and her husband faced marital strife and separated permanently.

She became a single mom. The frayed shreds of paper were arranged in an abstract pattern. Her prayer was that of forgiveness to those who interfered with her parenting, and also a prayer of thankfulness.

Sister Ambrose Stachiw's art project was a reminder that everyone has something to offer God, even if her gifts seem insignificant.

"I am taking torn fragments of my life, and offering something beautiful to God," said Stachiw, a Sister Servant of Mary Immaculate.

PROFOUND MEANINGS

All of the colours in Sister Maria Seguin's creation held a deeper meaning. Blue symbolized the immensity of heaven. Pink represented her joy and her love of God that sustains her. Purple is her difficulties, the stormy times of her life. Green is for hope.

"My prayer is the love of God shown to us in his marvellous creation."