If you’ve attended a Christmas or Easter service at St. Joe’s, you’ve probably seen the handy-work of the Liturgical Environment Committee. Did you ever wonder who designed those beautiful displays or how they came up with the idea? I know I have. To get some answers and gain little insight into the process, I sat down with John Weir and Dorothy Collins – the creative force behind St. Joe’s Liturgical Environment Committee.
Brandon: How did your relationship with St. Joe’s start?
Dorothy: My parents were parishioners in the 70’s and 80’s, then I had a lapse. John has been here since 1992.
B: Was there a Liturgical Decorating Ministry then?
D: Jane Williams had directed most of the liturgies at St. Joe’s for many years, with the help and support of others…Marlene Bosch and Maureen McIntyre and others. As a parishioner at the time, I used to come to Mass enthralled by services, especially the visuals. Everything came together. In 2014, when John and I were getting married, we decorated the church for the wedding. After that, Mary (Murphy) invited more participation. Joe Fidia (a local artist) and I worked together for a year or two before he and his wife moved to Montreal. At that, I had a big project I wanted to try with calla lilies.
John: And I helped set that up.
D: The rest is history. We were hooked.
B: How did the ministry develop? What made you want to get involved?
D: The ministry developed naturally when the Liturgy Planning Committee began inviting us to their seasonal planning meetings. That helped a lot. Things came more directed liturgically. We are always impressed with the work that goes into planning liturgies here. The coordination is reflected beautifully in the services.
J: The commitment to detail is what makes St. Joseph’s special I think.
B: Where do your decorating ideas come from?
D: Many ideas come out of our Liturgical Planning Committee meetings where the readings are reviewed.
J: As we listen, we come up with ideas.
D: Other ideas come from obvious seasons like Christmas and Easter. We’ve had ideas come from situations that have personal meanings to us. Like some work we did in Guatemala where we became involved with people who lived in poverty, with huge social, economical, and political gaps between wealthy and poor. Last year’s Advent display came from the plight of the refugee situation and the need for a Canadian response.
J: Other people have contributed too, like Angela Mione. She got involved about three or four years ago and brought another element to our work. Mostly from her love of the outdoors and nature.
B: How many helpers do you usually have? Are there any specific skills you look for in a volunteer?
D: For a long time, it was just John and I. Angela Mione joined and then Cheryl Tymchuck, Christine Libon, Charlotte Webber, and Susan and Richard Schmaltz.
J: We really look for enthusiasm for the work and love of the arts. There is a pretty big time commitment when we get started, so we look for ways to work within schedules. Most helpers are retired. There’s also some heavy lifting involved, so there is a need for physical strength too. Mostly, just creative energy is what we look for.
B: I’ve noticed that all of your displays are very colourful and textured. Would you say St. Joe’s have a specific style?
D: We are a very open-minded, sensitive to the needs of all in a very diverse community like this. It’s based on collaboration. There are a variety of ideas, colour, texture, and design that is the community. I suppose one of our goals is to reflect that in the work we do.
J: We want to show a consistent appreciation for what St. Joseph’s has to offer, not just our community, but the wider community.
B: I know Christmas is always big, but what’s your favourite season or event to decorate for?
J: I don’t think we have a favourite season as much as we have favourite challenges. Sometimes we start off with one idea and plans for a particular theme, then realize that it just won’t work. That’s tricky, when we have to start over. Then, at some magic point, it all comes together and we know what we want.
D: I think those are our favourites,
B: What do you gain from the experience? What’s the goal?
D: We’ve had so much support from the parish. There is a great deal of satisfaction in that. The goal is really to present an environment that will help people reflect on the message that is being given in the service.
J: We’re also aware that we don’t hit it right for all who attend services.
B: Art is subjective, but has there ever been an instance when you haven’t gotten the desired reaction?
D: It’s definitely subjective. We’ve had some positive comments over the years.
J: We’re very aware that not all parishioners love all of the work that we show but our real hope is that the environment will challenge everyone at some point or another.
D: We’ve never had negative comments directed directly to us, but I wouldn’t be surprised if someone ever approached the planning committee with “concerns”. I think that’s to be expected in any community.
B: Do you have a favourite display?
D: Oh yes. The native art presentation last year. The Guatemala City Dump and the banners of the St. Joe’s outreach programs.
B: Are you planning anything right now or is it a secret?
J: In fact, we are planning right now. No final plan though.
B: Well, I can’t wait to check it out when it’s up for everyone to see. Thanks for taking the time.
J: Our pleasure.
D: Thanks, Brandon.