"Laudato Si'" art exhibit looks at beauty, abuse and care of creation

Lisa Johnston | lisajohnston@archstl.org
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The upcoming art show celebrating the one-year anniversary of "Laudato Si'" was in the works even before Sister Glynis Mary McMamanon, RGS, opened Shepherding Images Studio & Good Shepherd Gallery in Ferguson this past November.

For one, when Pope Francis's encyclical came out June 18, she was in France at an international meeting of her community — Our Lady of Charity of the Good Shepherd. "There was such a build-up," she said recently at the gallery on South Florissant Road. "When it came out, there was such an excitement that, really, I think it was in my mind."

Secondly, and perhaps most importantly, she went to Sister Corlita Bonnarens, RSM, for spiritual direction, to help discern where God was calling her as the next step in her ministry. Was He calling her to open a studio/gallery similar to the one she operated for four years in Louisville, Ky., before coming to St. Louis in 2010?

The answer was embodied in her spiritual director; it just so happened that Sister Corlita is an artist.

Once Sister Glynis Mary's discerned to go forward with the artistic ministry, Sister Corlita was No. 1 on her list for the "Laudato Si'" exhibit.

"This is what she's about; she's done just so many pieces on the environment and creation," Sister Glynis Mary said. "That was the stepping off point."

Sister Corlita will be among the featured artists — exclusively religious sisters and a priest — at the "Laudato Si'" exhibit, which runs Sunday, May 22 through Sunday, June 26. In addition to Sisters Corlita and Glynis Mary, the show features five more sisters — Sisters Mary Beth Kemper, CPPS; Maria Liebeck, DC; Ann Francis Monedero, OSF; Josephine Niemann, SSND; and Regina Shin, RSCJ — and Father Thomas Wyrsch, the pastor at St. Rose Philippine Duchesne Parish in nearby Florissant.

Sister Corlita and Sister Sharon O'Grady, RGS, helped Sister Glynis Mary recruit the show's artists, and Sister Sharon will help her set it up, with the show divided into three themes.

"First, the beauty of creation," Sister Glynis Mary said. "Then, there's the issue of the abuse of creation; look at what we're doing and the consequences of that. Finally, we move into the call from in the encyclical: stewardship of creation."

Quotes from "Laudato Si' — either selected by the artists or from Sister Sharon's research — will tie the works together. Sister Glynis Mary gave her a big thumbs-up, as well as to Sister Corlita and the others in the show. Sister Glynis Mary envisions hosting four or five shows per year, with one featuring religious sisters and priests and the rest running the gamut from special education, elementary or high school students to senior citizens to anyone in between.

Sister Glynis Mary has been doing art as ministry since the late-1990s, when she took art classes at Bellarmine University in Louisville. Previously, she had worked with adolescents in an institutional setting, then pastoral care, public relations and human resources. She also received education to be a drug-alcohol counselor, but ultimately recognized that God was calling her to do art.

"I was always looking for a good fit (for ministry) and finally, I heard God saying, 'You're an artist; when are you going to accept who I made you to be?'" she said.

Being an artist wasn't much of a stretch. Although she never had trained as an artist, she'd been around art all of her life. Her father, Jack, was a cartoonist, with comic strip work and editorial cartoons as a sidelight to his real jobs as a fire fighter and roofer in the Cleveland area. Dolores and the late Jack McManamon had four children, three girls and a boy.

Sister Glynis Mary didn't incorporate art into other ministries or do art for art's sake, but "art in service of the Gospel," she said. Her specialty is Byzantine and Russian Iconography.

Similar to Sister Glynis Mary, Father Wyrsch is a late-comer when it comes to art, taking it up as a student at Kenrick Seminary in the 1970s and later studying under renowned local artist Rudolph Torrini at Fontbonne University. As pastor, he only has time to devote a few hours per month to art, but he finds it theologically enriching and "leaving me in a good space to go right back to ministry or prayer."

The quote from his artist statement for the show sums up his ministry and his art.

"Relating to other people and relating to God," he said. "I'm very happy with that." 

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