New stewardship image of Jesus beckoning the viewer revealed at A Gift Unveiled

E. Vincent Wood III painted an image of Jesus beckoning the view to follow him that is being used for this year’s stewardship image in the Diocese of Wichita. (Advance photo)

E. Vincent Wood III, the artist who painted last year’s stewardship image of Jesus beckoning Mary Magdalen, didn’t have to paint the entire likeness of Our Lord, just an extended hand.

This year he didn’t get off so easy.

Wood was one of the speakers at “A Gift Unveiled: A Stewardship Evening” on Friday, Sept. 8, at St. Catherine of Siena Parish in Wichita. The evening included prayer, a Mass, an art exhibit, a conversation with Bishop Carl A. Kemme and guests, and dinner.

“In painting Jesus, there was a lot of reservation,” Wood said. “I kind of tried to avoid it last year and didn’t have to paint his face.”

Hesitant to paint Jesus

He explained that his hesitancy in depicting Jesus is that everyone has an image of Christ in their minds. “All that heaviness came to bear as I sat down to begin this painting and I suddenly realized what I was about to do.”

There’s a difference between painting Jesus and painting the Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, Savior of the world, he said. “There’s a lot of heaviness there. Suddenly it was like, here I am, and I paused for a moment and said a prayer of surrender.”

Wood said he acknowledged that he was inadequate to paint an image of Our Lord. “I was turning it over saying either God you’re going to come through and you’re going to create an image that inspires or it’s not going to happen. So I’m going to go for it and I expect you to come through.”

After the laughter of the 330 attending died down, Fr. David Lies, the vicar general of the Diocese of Wichita, talked about how much energy Audrey Ronnfeldt, the director of the Stewardship Office, puts into the stewardship theme.

“Audrey has, like a book, this thing she brings everywhere and she’s constantly putting in concepts and ideas she comes up with and suggestions from others,” he said. “I just come in at the end and we start talking about what it means to make imagery out of some of these ideas.”

An invitation from Jesus

Fr. Lies said Jesus’ gesture toward a path is an invitation. “Maybe throughout the year we can look at it, we can consider as we look into Christ’s eyes and we can say, this is yet one more chance, one more moment for me to be available instead of walking away.”

Bishop Kemme said commenting on a beautiful portrait with the creator present was a little precarious.
“First of all, the subject, the model, as far as looking like Jesus, I’ve never really gotten that,” he said after which the room filled again with laughter.

Fr. Benjamin Green, a priest of the Diocese of Wichita who is on loan to the Diocese of Dodge City, was Wood’s model for the painting. Fr. Lies talked about how much of an outdoorsman Fr. Green is, how he has always sported long locks and a lumberjack beard, and how it was an act of faith for Fr. Green to pose for the image.

Bishop Kemme commented about Fr. Green’s ministry while serving as a chaplain for Via Christi. “I have often heard that when he walked into your room he either made you very nervous or very, very calm. Jesus is coming into my room!”

After the laughter died down, the bishop said, in some ways, the painting invokes that same idea.

Jesus beckons us

“I’ve been looking at this for days and I hope you will too as it graces our posters after we send this out to all of our parishes. I would say as a compliment to the creator, it’s very powerful, very engaging. I’m drawn easily to the eyes and to the hands.”

The image is an invitation, he said, Jesus is receiving us, inviting us, and then pointing the way.

Sr. Rosa Linda Lopez-Rocha spoke in Spanish with an English translation about her interpretation of stewardship. She is the mother superior of the Missionary Catechists of the Poor.

Fr. Dan Spexarth, pastor of St. Catherine of Siena, closed the evening with some words of inspiration and prayer.

Representatives from 23 parishes took part in the event.