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Three art pros will pick slides for Sr. Wendy

As the deadline for our art search for a contemporary Jesus appears closer on the horizon, NCR wishes to announce the jury that will choose the final 10 slides which will then be adjudicated by famed BBC “art nun” Sr. Wendy Beckett of England.

A team of three art professionals, all teachers and all directors of galleries in their communities, will meet for what promises to be an extremely busy weekend in late October. What they find and what they decide is likely -- judging by the extraordinary reaction to the NCR competition thus far -- to have considerable bearing on the public’s visual perception of Jesus early in the new millennium.

  • Sherry Lynn Best lives in Prairie Village, Kan. She has a BA from the University of Missouri, Kansas City, in studio art and art history; also an MA and MFA from the University of Michigan, where her emphasis turned mostly to photography and the history of art.
    Best taught at the University of Michigan School of Art, Clarion University of Pennsylvania, the University of Missouri, Kansas City, and Rockhurst College in Kansas City.
    She has had solo and juried exhibitions of her work in many cities across America and has had her work reviewed and reproduced in many publications in Kansas City and elsewhere.
    Since 1997 she has been director of the Massman Gallery at Rockhurst College, where she curated a wide range of exhibitions.
  • Pattie Wigand Sporrong lives in Chicago. She has a BA in fine arts from Wheaton College; an MA in business administration from North Park University, Chicago; and an MA in arts education from DePaul University, Chicago.
    Since 1994, Sporrong has been on the staff of Chicago’s Catholic Theological Union, the largest graduate school of theology in the United States, where she divides her energies between director of marketing and communications and director of the Courtyard Gallery. The purpose of the Courtyard is “to foster an appreciation for the significance of the arts in the spiritual quest.”
    At the gallery she has curated a wide range of individual and group exhibitions.
  • Cory James Stafford lives in Boulder, Colo. He has a BFA from Columbus College of Art and Design, and an MFA from the University of Colorado at Boulder, with additional studies at the University of Florida, Ohio State University and Ohio University.
    Stafford has been an instructor in painting and drawing at the University of Colorado at Boulder since 1997. He is also a working artist.
    Since 1997 he has been director of the University of Colorado Memorial Center Gallery, where he has planned exhibitions in various media by national and international artists.

The competition continues to arouse intense curiosity and constant queries about how to enter (we would greatly encourage interested artists to ask for instructions on how to enter, or to check our website at www.natcath.org), so our distinguished panel will be doing a really important thing. We welcome them to this endeavor and are proud to have them involved.

A recent letter from “a long-time reader” whom I’ll call Betty says she and her husband are “continually amazed and delighted with your publication.” She then goes on to explain her dilemma: “I sometimes find myself feeling overwhelmed at the various situations around the world.” She refers to the bombing of Iraq as an example.

Betty is haunted by injustice and the frustration of being “only one voice.” Her plaint is constantly echoed by other NCR readers who would love to save the world or at least mend it but grow weary of the fight and the loneliness of the effort.

Yes, the world is beautiful on summer days when one is carefree or in love or has just won the lottery or is granted a privileged moment when natural beauty or divine radiance briefly wipes life’s tears away. Yet the human condition is such that earth’s cares do return. Those with a capacity for pity or justice are challenged, first, to look the evil in the eye and, second, to do something about it.

“The world can’t take too much reality,” James Baldwin once wrote. Only the deranged take pleasure in other people’s pain. Given the option, most people turn away.

I replied to Betty that I would address the problem if only to say I had nothing to say. This is the great conundrum in the face of which we are all struck dumb, from Job’s day (he was a notable exception on the dumbness issue!) to our own. I believe one reason so many readers rely on NCR is because it does not flinch from contemplating the cruelty and unfairness and death. They are readers who have made a tacit pact with humanity - that they will not walk away.

The best moments of world history show humans carrying on against the odds, from the myth of Sisyphus to the man on a cross. We go on precisely because doing so is when we are at our best, undaunted, shouting the word hope into the darkness ahead.

Think of all the glossy magazines - and others - in which you will not find the agony of East Timor this week. NCR is not particularly heroic in putting on our covers and in our pages the forgotten, the voiceless, the suffering. It is the least we can do, although it is not the only thing we do. Most of us are far away from those threatened and tortured people, so useless to them, so unable to make the world listen, or make the world whole by magic or miracle. But we owe them at least the gesture of looking in their direction with compassion - sometimes that’s all humanity can do.

At press time the tragedy of East Timor had gathered even more momentum. The Vatican’s missionary news service FIDES was reporting that three priests were slain in a grenade attack on a parish in Suai Sept. 6, including Fr. Henry Madeira. FIDES also reported 15 priests killed in Dili and Baucau, and some nuns killed in Baucau. Bishop Basilio Do Nascimento, based in Baucau, was injured in a Sept. 8 attack and was hiding in the forest, the report said.

The Catholic charity group Caritas reported the director of its East Timor operations, Fr. Francisco Barreto, was killed by army-backed militiamen in Dare. Other Caritas members were also feared dead.

-- Michael Farrell

National Catholic Reporter, September 17, 1999