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Catholic News Herald

Serving Christ and Connecting Catholics in Western North Carolina

080417 st gabesCHARLOTTE — A 10-foot-by-5-foot oil painting reflecting the many ways St. Gabriel Church members worship, serve and grow in faith was recently dedicated at the parish.

The painting by Renaissance-style artist Matthew Good of Hickory, entitled “Body of Christ/Communion of Saints,” portrays a group of saints, lay persons and clergy whose diverse vocations and gifts call to mind how St. Gabriel parishioners respond in faith, hope and love to God through corporal and spiritual works of mercy. With its placement facing the St. Gabriel Chapel altar, this artwork reminds the faithful that they as the Body of Christ, with the communion of saints, gather at the Table of the Lord.

“We bring our variety of gifts to the Table of the Lord in service and gratitude,” said Father Frank O’Rourke, pastor. “The lives of those depicted in the painting echo the generosity and love with which the faithful at St. Gabriel keep the flame of faith alive and respond to others in need. How blessed we are to join with the whole communion of saints in prayer and thanksgiving.”

Among the people depicted in the painting are Father Thomas Price, the first native North Carolinian priest and co-founder of the Catholic Foreign Mission Society of America; a young boy representing Scouts; St. Catherine McAuley, founder of the Sisters of Mercy; a police officer and a doctor; Father Mychal Judge, the New York Fire Department chaplain who lost his life while aiding Sept. 11 victims; St. Juan Diego; St. Martin de Porres; and a woman holding a pyx, representing Extraordinary Ministers of Holy Communion.

Sacred art that Good had created for St. Charles Borromeo Church in Morganton provided inspiration for the artwork at St. Gabriel. Through St. Charles Borromeo’s pastor Father Ken Whittington, Father O’Rouke met the artist whose faith and talent provided a way to transform inspiration into reality. With input from the parish community and the generosity of parishioner Paul Franz, “Body of Christ/Communion of Saints” is the result of almost two years of fruitful collaboration, “giving depth and meaning to our vision and inspiring faith,” Father O’Rourke said.

Good’s artwork uses live models, members of St. Gabriel Church, to accomplish his goal of presenting the figures in the painting as living, breathing persons on earth, fully engaged in the joys and sorrows of living their faith. Matthew studied in the master apprentice tradition with Ben Long IV, learning master techniques in oil, as well as fresco and drafting.

Good also painted an image of the Blessed Virgin Mary that now hangs in the lobby of St. Gabriel School.

He was commissioned by the St. Gabriel School families and faculty to create an original portrait of our Blessed Mother to honor Sue Cornish, a beloved second-grade teacher who passed away in 2016. She had taught at St. Gabriel School for 30 years. Pictured at the July 21 blessing are (from left) Nancy Chi-arelli, Patty Fischer, Father O’Rourke, Michele Snoke, Sue Cornish’s husband Mike Cornish, fellow teacher Lindsey Conrad, Darlene Rawlins, and fellow teacher Marion Scherger and her husband Danny.

— Photos provided by Darby McClatchy and Michele Snoke

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