Campion reveals stunning stained-glass artwork for new academic wing
When Campion College approached Sr Josephine Marie to design a stained-glass window skylight for its new library, no-one really knew what they were taking on.
What was initially thought to be several weeks’ work transformed into a year-long project, producing a magnificent achievement in Christian-inspired artistry, combining the traditional artform with modern means of production.
Sr Josephine, a simple professed of the Brisbane-based Sisters of Mary Morning Star, described the endeavour as an intensive, but rewarding, labour of love.
Sr Josephine Marie of the Sisters of Mary Morning Star.
“Normally we don’t take on such big projects, due to the fact that they take so long, and because we live a monastic life we can only give so much time to this kind of work. That’s been a big learning curve – to just give it the time that I can when I can,” she said.
“The artistic process is something I really enjoy, but it is very consuming in the sense that a project like this inhabits you, so when you finally get to the stage where it’s outside of yourself, it’s already like a release.”
Campion College, a Catholic liberal arts institute, based in Toongabbie in Western Sydney, is in the middle of constructing a new academic wing, which will include a two-storey library, as well as lecture theatres, classrooms and a dining hall-event space.
A member of the Campion Board familiar with the order reached out to Sr Josephine after the board decided to commission a stained-glass window for the ceiling of its new library.
After working through several ideas, Sr Josephine and the Board settled on 15 pictorial panels, surrounded by an additional 20 panels containing phrases in Latin and English, under the heading ‘Fides et Ratio’ (Faith and Reason) – the overarching theme of the window.
Sr Josephine said the 10 saints depicted were chosen by Campion, but that she was given the creative freedom to design the overall image.
“I wanted to have Christ as the Truth, and from him begins a vine, so the saints are like the branches, all bearing fruit with Christ as the source and centre,” she said.
Each saint is depicted with a different fruit, symbolically linked to his or her ministry, character, or history. Additionally, to give it an Australian flair, each panel features a native flower or plant.
“The skylight is divided into three columns, so we have the river of life with little fish in the centre, depicting students who enter Campion seeking the truth as they swim upriver to Christ, who is the source, with Our Lady Seat of Wisdom above as Christ’s first disciple.”
The two side columns are both green, symbolising “the trees that grow alongside the banks of the river of life”.
Sr Josephine painting one of the panels.
The Latin words bordering the images come from the opening phrase of St John Paul II’s encyclical letter, Fides et Ratio: “Faith and reason are like two wings on which the human spirit rises to the contemplation of truth”.
Prior to joining the Sisters of Mary Morning Star, Sr Josephine worked for seven years as an iconographer in New Zealand, working under sacred artist Michael Pervan.
“That experience with icons has inspired these windows, even though these are not icons,” Sr Josephine said.
“When you’re immersed in colour and shape and tone and form full-time for that long, in an environment where our first job was for Christ to write His icon, it spills over into everything else.”
Sr Josephine has meticulously designed and painted each panel using high-flow acrylic paints on watercolour paper, which will be printed digitally onto each windowpane for the skylight.
The entire window will measure 3.4m x 8.27m, and will be installed into Campion’s Academic Centre library in the new year.
To celebrate this announcement, Campion has turned Sr Josephine’s designs into a colouring book, featuring black-and-white versions of each skylight panel, accompanied by a short paragraph on the inspiration for each image by Sr Josephine.
This article appeared in the Catholic Weekly on 24 November 2022.
See a gallery of the stained glass panels below.