Building “cathedrals of culture”: 10 Catholic school districts gather at Archdiocesan offices for Witness Through Art event

09 May 2024

Appears in: Archdiocesan News

From portraits of Jesus to St. Mother Teresa to the words of Scripture, students from the 10 school divisions in the Edmonton Archdiocese share their God-given talents as a way to build Catholic culture and community in our Archdiocese. 

Over 150 students, parents and educators gathered on May 7 for “Witness Through Art.” The students’ artwork, on loan to the Archdiocese, will adorn the walls of the assembly hall at the pastoral centre. The Witness Through Art event, held during Catholic Education Week May 5-10, aims to build and celebrate authentic Catholic culture and to glorify God through the gifts of the artists. 

The Archdiocese of Edmonton includes 10 Catholic School Divisions: East Central Alberta , Edmonton,  Evergreen,  Elk Island, Greater St. Albert.  Living Waters, Red Deer,  Lloydminster and St. Thomas Aquinas Catholic School Division and Conseil Scolaire Centre-Nord francophone school division.

Each school division had the opportunity to present and share about the artwork that they were contributing and to publicly honour the young artists. Archbishop Richard Smith took time to bless each artist and their artwork.

Archbishop Smith blessed all of the art submitted from each of the 10 Catholic school districts.

“In the mind of the Church, the talent of artists reflects the glory of God,” Archbishop Smith said during the event. “This is why we are gathered here today in a spirit of prayer and contemplation and thanksgiving to God: because your work is a way of giving glory to God.

“It is a beautiful thing to believe in Jesus Christ. . . and it’s a wonderful thing to have artists amongst us who can show through the beauty of their work how beautiful it is to be a follower of Jesus Christ. We are really, really proud of you and what you have done.”

Kirsten Galler and Aliyah Bautista, high school students from St. Thomas Aquinas Catholic School Division, submitted a painting inspired by the Gospel of John and Jesus’s words:  “I am the Way, the Truth and the Life” (John 14:6).

Kirsten Galler and Aliyah Bautista from STAR Catholic School District with their art, inspired by scripture.


“If we believe in Jesus and let him pave our path he will never fail at proving that faith can really move mountains,” Leah and Kirsten said.

 “There are times when we are in darkness and the light that everyone seems to be talking about is out of reach but Jesus is there to help us move and lead us towards it. Jesus is our life and he is leading us to encounter God. He really is the Way, the Truth and the Life.” 

Among the artists was an elementary student from Conseil Scolaire Centre-Nord francophone school division. A non-verbal student, with severe autism, the artist’s work was a colourful framed cross.

Although the student was not in attendance, Archbishop Smith thanked him for his artistic gift and noted that the young man’s art “stood out to me because that is true for all of us: that the greatest witness that we can make is often non-verbal. It is through the way that we live most often, rather than what we say, that witnesses to the Gospel in our lives.” 

Ana Olson’s daughter Keanna Olson is a Grade 12 student at Archbishop Jordan High School within Elk Island Catholic School Division. She contributed a drawing of Saint Mother Teresa. 

“She drew this for me and I wanted her to enter it into this project because even when I look at it and I pray I can see in her eyes the light of Jesus, the example of Jesus, who takes care of those who are least and who need care, the poorest of the poor,” Ana Olson said.

“My kids have learned at home and at their school what love is and who Jesus is and they put that into their art. I’m very proud of how in their schools they are examples of love and caring and compassion, helping their classmates, that’s what we’re called to do!” 

Keanna Olson, a Grade 12 student from Elk Island Catholic School Division

Dr. Eugenia Pagnotta-Kowalzyk, Mission Engagement Lead for the Archdiocese of Edmonton, led the organization of Witness Through Art. She said the event was inspired by a desire to support school divisions in creating “cathedrals of Catholic culture” that are a witness to the world of the beauty of Catholicism. 

“In his book, Architects of Catholic Culture, Timothy Cook shares the importance of building ‘cathedrals of culture…where religious pictures and symbols reflect the rich cultural diversity cherished by the Church.” 

“We lean on each other very much like the walls of a cathedral. You can’t just build one wall and then it’s a cathedral. It’s many elements coming together to share that beauty. And if we work together and we grow in our faith together we do build that cathedral of beauty in our Archdiocese. It is our hope that all who enter our Pastoral Administration Office Assembly Hall will be able to feel our Catholic ‘cathedral of culture.’”

Dr. Eugenia Pagnotta-Kowalczyk was the host for the Witness Through Art event.

Dr. Pagnotta-Kowlazyk highlighted the Church’s teaching that parents are the “first and primary educators of the Faith” for their children. 

The art project celebrated the work of the 10 schools districts which are within the Archdiocese of Edmonton, while also celebrating the parents of the students, many of whom were in attendance in support of their children. 

“[My husband and I] feel very lucky to live in a community that has a Catholic school to offer, it is a unique opportunity because even though I grew up Catholic, I didn’t live in an area that had Catholic education,” shared Dr. Renee Deagle-Creasy, mother of Aubrey Creasy, an elementary student in the  East Central Alberta Catholic School Division.

Dr. Renee Deagle-Creasy said the Witness Through Art event is an opportunity to build community between Catholics from big cities and smaller, rural communities. 

Aubrey Creasy, an elementary student in the  East Central Alberta Catholic School Division, with the art she created.

“Having the opportunity to come here and celebrate our faith with all of these other schools, it’s great to be involved, because sometimes you can feel isolated, out in rural communities. It was great to see all the artwork and how God’s message speaks through these kids.” 

Brendan Cavanugh, executive director of the Alberta Catholic School Trustees Association, said of the Witness Through Art event: “It’s great to see the Archdiocese and the Catholic schools working so closely together to recognize the incredible talent that God has given these students. 

“One of the distinctive qualities of Catholic education is the relationship between school and church, and this event really highlights how beautiful the connection can be.”

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Jenny Connelly – Archdiocese of Edmonton