Inspired art

Prayer helps seminarian tap his creative side


by Carolyn Kaberline

As a graduate student in architecture at the University of Kansas, Gerard Alba got to help design and build a building on the KU campus.

“The Center for Design Research,” said Alba, “is located on the west campus of KU. As student designers, we did the design and research, as well as running a not-for-profit 501(c)3, soliciting funds for our project.

“We were also the construction workers for the building itself — pouring concrete foundations, steel fabrications, electrical, duct work, finishes, etc.”

Alba, now a fourth-year theology student at the University of St. Mary of the Lake – Mundelein Seminary, never got the chance to build anything else after earning his degree.

But he’s not letting those artistic talents go to waste.

He is the artist behind the most recent seminarian poster for the Archdiocese of Kansas City in Kansas. Not that he exactly asked for the job.

“Dan Morris, a fellow seminarian, had designed the last four posters,” said Alba, a member of Ascension Parish in Overland Park. “He knew I had an art background and said, ‘You’ll be doing it this year.’”

The poster features photos of all the current seminarians from the archdiocese with a background drawing depicting a very famous image — Pope Francis kissing a foot after washing it.  At the top of the poster are the words: “Let yourselves be consumed by the Gospel.  It is your task to hold nothing back, to go outside of yourselves in the service of the faithful and the holy people of God.”

“The idea for the poster came through prayer,” explained Alba. “The quote came from Pope Francis in his address [to metropolitan archbishops receiving their palliums]. It shows what it means to be a priest. It’s about the Eucharist and the call to service. It gets us out of our comfort zone. It asks us: ‘What does it really mean to be a Christian?’ and challenges us to serve the Lord in others.”

Alba says he began work on the poster during the summer months, which allowed him plenty of time.

“I’d work on it for a week, then wouldn’t touch it for another three,” Alba explained. “It went through a number of iterations. I got the input of a number of people, including Dan Morris, as I always do my best work through collaboration.”

Alba explained that he began with a drawing of Pope Francis and then turned to his computer to make some finishing changes more appropriate to the poster design.

After that, photos of the seminarians were added along with the verse from Pope Francis and the archdiocesan logo.

“Gerard has great artistic sense and skill,” said Father Scott Wallisch, vocations director for the archdiocese. “I have enjoyed viewing his art for the nine years that I have known him. His art seems to flow so quickly and easily from him, and it is fun to watch him work.”

Father Wallisch said that at first he was a little skeptical as to whether a drawing would work on a poster combined with photos. But he was soon a fan.

“Once Gerard figured out how to arrange [the photos and drawing] to make them work together, it turned out beautifully,” said Father Wallisch. “I have heard or read so many positive comments about the poster.”

The posters were printed and distributed to the parishes in late September and can now be seen in most archdiocesan churches.

“The point of the poster is to remind Catholics in our parishes to be praying for our seminarians,” said Father Wallisch. “It is also a way of reminding young men to be thinking about the possibility of a vocation to the priesthood. Ultimately, it is one of our best tools in promoting a culture of vocations in the archdiocese.”

“For me, drawing is a prayer,” said Alba. “I looked at it as an expression of my own prayer and a tool of evangelization. My hope is that it will inspire.

“Beauty is very important to me. I think beauty is what will change our world and culture.  ‘Truth doesn’t really compel us anymore, but beauty still attracts us,’ Cardinal Francis George told us seminarians.”

“Gerard has a great gift from God, and I know he was excited to use that gift to further God’s glory,” concluded Father Wallisch.

“It was a design idea that came from his heart and his prayer,” he added, “and I believe seminarians, discerners, and laity all will benefit from what he has created.”

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