Catholic Transcript Magazine of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Hartford Connecticut

As we celebrate the 175th Anniversary of the Archdiocese, we look back… on July 20, 1971 when parishioners settled on a site for the new St. Thomas the Apostle Church, Oxford.
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icon workshop 5956 webStudents at an iconography workshop peer over the shoulder of instructor Marek Czarnecki, right, at the Archdiocesan Center at St. Thomas Seminary, Bloomfield, June 12

BLOOMFIELD – In one room, Marek Czarnecki was showing art students how to apply layers of color over a painted icon of a saint. Across the hall, Jonathan Pageau led a workshop on how to carve icons in soapstone or boxwood and achieve fine details in bas relief.

It was all part of “Six Days of Creation,” two separate courses by two renowned iconographers June 7-13 at the Archdiocesan Center at St. Thomas Seminary. Mr. Czarnecki, who owns a gallery in Meriden called Seraphic Restorations, has been offering iconography writing workshops at the seminary for several years. Mr. Pageau, owner of Pageau Carvings in Montreal, Canada, has been creating carved and statuary icons for about 12 years. This was his first workshop in this location.

Orthodox iconography is an ancient art dating back to the earliest days of Christianity. Primarily an Eastern Rite art, it provides authentic, traditional images intended to “exemplify the larger consciousness of the Christian Church,” according to Mr. Czarnecki’s website, www.seraphicrestorations.com.

“Remember, the colors are translucent,” Mr. Czarnecki reminded his students. “Paint darker colors first, then lighter colors. And paint a little here, a little there, not all in one area.”

In Mr. Pageau’s workshop, everyone was silently engrossed in painstakingly chipping away at 7.5” x 10” slabs of soapstone imported from Kenya, trying to achieve a consistent bevel and background depth. A traced image of a saint was their only visual guide.

icon workshop 5931 webJonathan Pageau works while instructing his class

“This is a drawing based on traditional models,” said Mr. Pageau. “You try to stay within the tradition of [each saint’s] image. It’s a fully traditional art where you basically take what has been there and you create variations on that.”

When creating a bas relief image, he says he likes to challenge himself and round out the form, then work on the details, and do the face last. “I like the pressure,” he said. “When you make the face of a saint, it’s as if that’s when the image comes alive.”

When creating an image of Christ, he said, he holds his breath. “You know you’re going to create an image that will be part of someone’s life,” he said.

He once was commissioned to carve the image of Saint Irenaeus of Lyons (d. 202) for his bishop. “When I did the eyes, I showed it to some friends and a friend said it looked like the bishop,” he said. “I had not planned it. It was a magical moment.”

Both Mr. Czarnecki and Mr. Pageau are on the faculty of Hexaemeron, a nonprofit organization based in Lexington, Ky., that offers courses in ecclesial arts, including iconography. The name derives from the Greek term that signifies the six days of creation.

For information on future workshops, contact Mr. Czarnecki at 203-238-7553 (www.seraphicrestorations.com) or Mr. Pageau at 450-598-6252 (www.pageaucarvings.com).

alertAt the Spring Assembly of the U.S. bishops, Cardinal Joseph Tobin suggested that a delegation ofbishops go to the border to see for themselves what was happening to newly arrived immigrants, families and children. On July 1 and 2, Cardinal Daniel DiNardo, president of the U.S. bishops conference, and five other bishops conducted a pastoral visit to the diocese of Brownsville, Texas. Stops included Mass at the Shrine of Our Lady of San Juan del Valle with the community, a visit to anHHS/OBR Shelter and Mass for the families there, a visit to the Customs and Border Patrol processing center in McAllen, TX, and a press conference at the end of their visit. Catholic News Service accompanied the bishops on their border trip. 

  1. Backgrounder and analysis of the bishops’ trip to the border: Cardinal DiNardo told CNS, “You cannot look at immigration as an abstraction when you meet” the people behind the issue.
  2. At final press conference, Cardinal Daniel Dinardo said the church was willing to be part of any conversation to find humane solutions because even a policy of detaining families together in facilities caused “concern.”
  3. Bishops serve soup to immigrant families at a center run by Catholic Charities and listen to their stories. Scranton Bishop Joseph Bambera said he found hope in hearing the people in the room talk about what’s ahead. They didn’t speak of making money but of finding safety for their children, he said, driven by “the most basic instinct to protect your family.”
  4. At an opening Mass he Basilica of Our Lady of San Juan del Valle-National Shrine near McAllen, Texas, Bishop Daniel Flores of Brownsville told Massgoers, “The bishops are visiting here so they can stop and look and talk to people and understand, especially the suffering of many who are amongst us,”

A delegation of U.S. bishops goes on a fact-finding mission at the U.S.-Mexican border to learn more about Central American immigration detention.

Following their visit to an immigrant detention center, U.S. bishops said they are even more determined to call on Congress for comprehensive immigration reform.