“My ministry is art,” Brother Mickey McGrath, an Oblate of St. Francis de Sales, said in a recent phone interview with the Sun. “Not only creating art and making it, but sharing it in presentations and retreats.”
His paintings — on both traditional canvas and modern iPad — bring to life scenes from scripture and words from saints. Often whimsical and always colorful, his art offers a unique perspective on faith. The author and illustrator of many books, Brother McGrath lives and works in Camden, N.J., and travels widely to share a message of faith with a blend of joy and humor.
Brother McGrath will bring his ministry to the Diocese of Syracuse next weekend, offering two events at the Harrison Center in Syracuse (see below for details). His visit is presented by the diocesan Office of Faith Formation and sponsored by Pflaum Publishing, a division of Bayard.
Friday evening’s presentation will “engage us in the saints of the Easter season,” explained Cathy Cornue, director of the Office of Faith Formation, while Saturday’s presentation will focus on “the Year of Mercy and all its incarnations.”
Attendees will leave either session (or both!) filled with joy, Cornue added, and hopefully having experienced “a renewal of their own love of God and our Catholic faith, and an enthusiasm for sharing that with others, whether they’re catechists in a parish or working with RCIA groups or just talking with their own circle of friends.”
Always an artist himself, Brother McGrath spent many years teaching studio art and art history at the college level. But after the deaths of his parents, his art became more intentional, he explained, and he “wanted to find ways to help other people use art for healing and prayer and finding peace.”
These days, Brother McGrath is doing just that — even for folks who don’t necessarily consider themselves artists. He led a men’s retreat that incorporated painting scenes from the life of St. Joseph at a homeless shelter in Camden. Something of a “giant paint-by-number,” it was a project the men couldn’t tear themselves away from, he said. Brother McGrath is also working on a coloring book about the saints, using coloring and drawing as a way to pray and meditate, he explained.
The idea is to “show how peaceful it is when you’re in a creative moment,” Brother McGrath said. “It helps you calm down and find inner peace to deal with the stresses and troubles that are going on in your life…. It doesn’t make our stresses go away, but it makes them manageable and it fills you with optimism and hope.”
Brother McGrath said that his upcoming presentations in Syracuse will include some art exercises, but that they’ll be “very gentle” and “there’s no art talent demanded!” Rather, the focus will be on his pictures and the stories behind them — and if he doesn’t see both tears and laughter during his talks, he won’t have done his job, he joked.
“My big thing is I want people to just sit back and relax,” he said. Some presentations are “built around filling people’s heads with facts and information, and that’s totally not what I’m about. I’m about sit back and touch the heart, not the head.”
Presentations by Brother Mickey McGrath, OSFS
• Easter Saints: Friday, April 15, 6:30 p.m. to 9 p.m.
$5 with refreshments included
• Endless Mercies: Saturday, April 16, 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.
$15 with lunch included
Both sessions held at: Bishop Harrison Center, 1342 Lancaster Ave., Syracuse
Registration required. Visit faithformationevents.weebly.com.
For the April 15 session only, a free bus will available for attendees traveling from the Eastern Region of the diocese. Pickups will be made at St. Paul’s Church in Whitesboro and at the Canastota Thruway exit (34). The 50 seats are first-come, first-served. Contact Andrea Slaven at (315) 797-4030 to reserve a seat.