Sr Josephine Marie finally gets the picture

Sr Josephine Marie with an icon of the Crucifixion (The Catholic Leader/Emilie Ng)

If you’ve ever felt bad for disliking a holy icon of Our Lady, Sr Josephine Marie can empathise – she once dismissed icons as unattractive paintings by people with no artistic talent. Source: The Catholic Leader.

The former New Zealand artist who now lives in Brisbane with the Sisters of Mary Morning Star, said, “I just thought Mary always looked so sad, this is done by people who really don’t know how to paint, the perspective’s all out.”

It’s a different story now – Sr Josephine Marie is midway through a beginner’s class on icons in Brisbane, teaching eight students the basics of writing icons and the theory behind the ancient art form.

“What I love is that it’s a real journey of faith for people because we don’t see, in faith, with our eyes,” Sr Josephine Marie said.

“With icons, they are like a help for our faith in the sense St John of Damascus said, ‘Every time we look at an icon, we grow in love for the one represented in it’.”

She has first-hand experience of the power of the saint’s opinion.

More than 10 years ago she met Michael Pervan, the director of the Studio of John the Baptist in Auckland, who had seen a selection of her work and invited her to be his apprentice, eventually leading to a full-time job for her.

At the studio she wrote dozens of exquisite icons using pure gold leaf and other natural materials, and passed on the ancient technique of iconography through art classes.

“During that time I definitely changed my opinions about icons,” Sr Josephine Marie said.

“So no longer were they poorly drawn pieces of art that weren’t tasteful to me; they really became windows into the mystery of my faith, and meeting places with God.”

It was also through icons that Sr Josephine Marie found her vocation to religious life.

“In the process of writing an icon, the image of whoever you’re painting is coming, so Our Lady gives her face or Our Lord gives His face and you’re there,” she said.

“What was growing in me was this thirst – Lord, I want to see your face, let me hear your voice. I wanted to no longer try and depict him but I wanted to see him.”


Brisbane’s newest Sister goes back to the drawing board with icon classes (The Catholic Leader

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