If a picture is worth a thousand words, a mural at St. Patrick Parish in York is worth a million.
Arranged from porcelain tiles affixed to an outdoor wall between the parish office and rectory, the mural features 50 individual images created by parishioners to express their memories, messages and hopes as the community emerges from the pandemic.
There are images of the Eucharist, the Divine Mercy, hands folded in prayer, crosses, rainbows, nature and families.
Each tile, a different message. Each tile, united in a grand illustration of faith.
On August 15, during a symbolic re-opening celebration in conjunction with a parish picnic, Father John Bateman, pastor, gathered parishioners for the unveiling of the mural.
It’s a tangible way of recognizing the challenges, uncertainties and loss experienced during the pandemic, to celebrate a sort of rebirth of the parish family, he said.
“We have some mosaics on the campus, so we thought about doing one for members of the parish to express something significant from the past year. It could be a message of hope, a message of looking forward, a memory – some way to express what they were thinking or feeling and to make it a visible message saying we’ve come through this and we’re moving to the future,” he said.
For the project, parishioners were invited to put their images and words down on special art paper, which was supplied by an art company and transformed into porcelain tiles.
“Each tile has personal meaning to the person who created it,” Father Bateman said.
Parishioner Carol Tutino used the opportunity to remember her husband of 43 years, George Tutino, who died on January 1, 2020.
The tile, created by Tutino’s daughter-in-law, Helen, features a bright red cardinal, a luminous cross and a rainbow.
“The cardinal on that picture represents my husband, because whenever I see a cardinal, I always think of George and know that he is with me,” Tutino explained. “The cross represents our faith, because it has been steadfast through the trials and tribulations of our life and George’s illness. The rainbow represents the end of the storm we experienced with the pandemic. At the bottom, we added the words ‘I will never leave you,’ because the Lord is always with us.”
She was at the mural’s unveiling on August 15, but was so overcome with emotion that she had to walk away after seeing it among the dozens of other illustrations of people’s memories and messages.
But Tutino returned a week later after a visit to the Adoration Chapel. “I went back and looked more closely at it. It truly speaks to how I feel as we come out of the pandemic,” she said.
Parishioner Bob Hough focused his tile on the Nativity.
“We were encouraged to present something that symbolizes renewal, and I couldn’t think of a better way to show the word ‘renewal’ than with an image of Jesus Christ coming into the world,” he said.
Hough’s image shows the Holy Family in the stable in Bethlehem, with colored shapes of blue, red, green and brown forming them in a stained-glass window. Hough recreated the artwork by resizing the image of the Nativity and applying liquid cement on top of it.
He said he hopes the mural will last for years to come, and remind people that there is always reason to hope.
“My wife Ann and I were at the unveiling. We enjoyed seeing the tile among the others,” he said. “I wish more parishioners would have participated, but I am very thankful for the ones who did. It’s a symbol of hope.”
Ample wall space surrounds the mural, allowing for the opportunity to add more tiles to mark significant milestones.
“There are pivotal moments in life, and I think this is one of them,” Father Bateman said. “The mural gives us a visual of what we’ve experienced and how we’re going to continue on.”
(Photos by Chris Heisey, The Catholic Witness.)
By Jen Reed, The Catholic Witness