By AnnaMarie Prono
I am completing my final semester in the Pastoral Institute’s Lay Ministry Program. My goal is to foster a ministry in arts and communications, in what I call Art for God.
As my final project, I led an icon workshop at my parish, Our Lady of Mercy Church, Forest Hills. Artists, both young and old, gathered in the parish hall Feb. 19 to make icons of Our Lady of Czestochowa.
The workshop opened with an introduction to Our Lady of Czestochowa, which was presented by Father Grzegorz Stasiak, a native of Poland and a parochial vicar at the parish. He explained he has led 13 pilgrimages to the holy site of Czestochowa.
According to tradition, after Christ’s death, St. Luke painted Mary’s portrait on wood. The legend is that the large wood surface on which the image was painted, was a table that came from the home of the Holy Family.
Over time, the icon traveled through many lands starting in Jerusalem. St. Helen discovered the painting and took it to her son, Constantine the Great in Constantinople. A chapel was built for the icon, and miracles were associated with it. However, due to the many wars, the icon was subjected to distress from fires and hostile attacks.
In 1382, an arrow severed the face of Our Lady during a military invasion. Prince Ladislaus Opolski decided to move the icon to his castle for safety. It was put on a wagon drawn by horses en route to the castle. When the horses pulling the wagon stopped in their tracks, refusing to budge, the Blessed Mother then appeared to Ladislaus and told him that a chapel should be built in the very spot where the horses stopped. This hill is called Jasna Gora, in Czestochowa. Following Mary’s instruction, a church was erected.
Miracles continued to be attributed to Our Lady of Czestochowa, many of which aided in defending the Polish people from military invasions and vicious enemy attacks. Following the history, I talked about icons and explained that in our limited amount of time we would be making icon images. There are specific guidelines. Typically they are on a wood surface, prepared with linen and layers of gesso. The paint used is egg tempera, which consists of egg yolk mixed with color pigments and water.
Using carbon paper and simple pre-printed line drawings of the famous icon, I showed the group of adults and children how to transfer the image onto cardstock. The artists used watercolor and acrylic paints, colored pencils, markers and pastels to bring the images to life.
Once completed, they had the opportunity to add various gems and glitter to Our Lady’s crown and robe. Msgr. John McGuirl, pastor, blessed the completed icons and together we recited the prayer to Our Lady of Czestochowa.
I was pleasantly surprised that parishioners from nearby Our Lady Queen of Martyrs joined us for the creative and faith filled afternoon. It was wonderful to watch a diverse group of adults and children work together to discover their artistic talents.