Wednesday, 31 October 2012

Welcome Speech Assisi Art Award 2012 for Sr. Claire SMMI, Monday, 29 October 2012 by Fr. Saju Chackalackal CMI

Welcome Speech Assisi Art Award 2012 for Sr. Claire SMMI, Monday, 29 October 2012 Fr. Saju Chackalackal CMI Christianity cherishes the fact of incarnation; we believe that Jesus Christ incarnated himself into our human flesh and blood, into the corrupt and corrupting humanity, in order to redeem us from the clutches of sin and death. The perspective of incarnation, as far as Christianity is concerned, is not only restricted to the life of Jesus Christ, but must infuse every realm of Christian life and existence, both personal and communitarian. While Christian art forms are generally associated with western mode of expressions, Christianity in India, at least in the post-Vatican II era, has made serious and praiseworthy attempts to incarnate Christian mysteries and teachings in and through the art forms that are native, by adopting the life of ordinary Indians and their cultural forms as the axis of expression. While acknowledging the fact that there are a number of exceptionally talented artists who have made uniquely significant contributions in this regard, today, under the auspices of art.i, which is established under the patronage of the CBCI Office for Social Communication, we honour Rev. Sr. Claire SMMI, a pioneering exceptionally talented artist, who has captured the life of Jesus Christ and the entire biblical saga in and through her colourful and picturesque paintings, for her lifetime achievements. On this day, as art.i has convened this award ceremony to present for the first time the Assisi Art Award for the year 2012 to Sr. Claire, we are honoured to have a number of eminent dignitaries with us. It is my honour and privilege to welcome each one of them. Every creative artist passes through moments of agony and ecstasy; while the moments of agony provide deeper and penetrating inspiration into a better perception of reality, the moments of ecstasy enable the artist to go on with her creative expressions even when no one takes notice of the works or everyone fails to take notice of their worth. Certainly, Sr. Claire had innumerable moments of agonies and ecstasies; otherwise, the great paintings that are to her credit would not have been painted. Today, we join Sr. Claire and her SMMI Community to thank the Lord for the blessing that she is and she has been to the Church in India and the universal church. The ability of Sr. Claire’s paintings to directly speak to the Indian mind is obvious, as they are widely acclaimed by both the experts and the ordinary public as well. Therefore, today, under the auspices of art.i, the Church in India, along with the Indian civil society, is represented by all of us who have gathered together here in the Pastor Kringe Memorial Auditorium of the Dharmaram Vidya Kshetram, to honour Sr. Claire for her lifetime achievements and contributions through her art works. At the very outset, may I take this opportunity to thank and congratulate Rev. Sr. Claire SMMI, in the name of all who have gathered here and all those admirers of her great paintings, for all that she has accomplished through her inspiring and captivating colourful canvas, for her silent but eloquent brush strokes, for her mission of theologizing without written words, but through the much more powerful medium of vibrant and life-throbbing pictures. May I, therefore, welcome the star of the day, Rev. Sr. Claire SMMI, to this award ceremony, with much love and warmth, bringing to the screen of each one’s mind those hundreds of beautiful depictions of Christian themes that she has brought to us through the strokes of her brush. Cordial welcome, our beloved Sr. Claire! His Grace Most Rev. Dr. Bernard Moras, the Archbishop of Bangalore, presides over today’s award ceremony. Apart from having adorned different offices such as the Director of Fr. Mueller’s Hospital in Mangalore and the Administrator of St. John’s Medical College Hospital, His Grace is well known for his role as a people’s pastor, which he has proved while being the Bishop of Belgaum and, now, as the Archbishop of Bangalore. I understand that His Grace considers it a blessing that Sr. Claire’s ministry had both taken its roots and, later, got its colourful flourishing, during her life in the Archdiocese of Bangalore. As Bangalore turned out to be the home away from home for Sr. Claire, today, it is quite fitting that His Grace presides over this Assisi Art Award giving ceremony. In the name of art.i and all those who have gathered here, may I accord to His Grace a very cordial welcome! The chief guest of today’s ceremony is an eminent statesman of Karnataka; it is an honour to have Shri Shankar Murthy, the Hon’ble Chairman of Karnataka Legislative Council with us to present the Assisi Art Award to Sr. Claire, its first recipient. Shri Shankar Murthy has an impeccable record of having been in public service in Karnataka for over three decades; his unchallenged integrity in public life makes him a statesman of rare qualities, who stands for the good of the people and their greater welfare. He is also known for his openness to various communities and religions; and his love for minorities, especially Christians, is well known. Hence, having Shri Shankar Murthy as the chief guest of today’s function is certainly fitting, especially from the point of view of the goals set by the art.i and the CBCI Office for Social Communication. Thanking You, Sir, for accepting our invitation, may I warmly welcome the Honourable Chairman of the Karnataka Legislative Council, Shri Shankar Murthy, to this august gathering! His Excellency Most Rev. Dr. Henry D’Souza, the bishop of the Diocese of Bellary and the Chairman of the CBCI-OSC, Karnataka, is with us to grace this occasion and to honour Sr. Claire. Being a bishop who understands the dynamics of media communication and who appreciates the contributions made by both individuals and institutions in making the Word of God proclaimed through the vibrant means of communications, including various art forms such as painting, it is His Excellency who has officially paved the way for the creation of art.i and the establishment of the Assisi Art Award. His presence, therefore, adds more joy and meaning to today’s function. Therefore, with a heart full of joy and gratitude, may I accord to His Excellency Most Rev. Dr. Henry D’Souza a cordial welcome to today’s award function! The presence of an eminent artist of international acclaim, Dr. Jyoti Sahi, who also has made pioneering efforts in the realm of Indian Christian art adds an intensity to today’s meeting; he is a unique blend of an artist and a theologian, a person of dialogue between cultures, traditions, and religions, to whose credit we have a number of wonderful paintings, publications, and many more monumental works. I am so glad that Dr. Jyoti Sahi is present with us to grace this occasion, and he would speak to us on “Multireligious Context of Indian Christian Art” in a short while from now. In the name of the art.i and all those who have gathered here, may I accord to respected Dr. Jyoti Sahi a very cordial welcome. The presence of Rev. Dr. Gudrun Loewner, a widely known expert on Indian Christian art forms, especially through her much acclaimed pioneering sourcebook Christian Themes in Indian Art, offers this august gathering the much needed scientific element in the study and critical appraisal of Indian Christian art. Rev. Dr. Loewner is an ordained minister and holds a PhD from Heidelberg University, Germany. She would offer a fitting “Art Appreciation” during this award ceremony, with a special focus on the various paintings of Sr. Claire. In the name of all of us gathered here, may I accord to Rev. Dr. Gudrun Loewner a very cordial welcome! Further, we have a number of prominent dignitaries on the dais who would offer felicitations to Sr. Claire immediately after the award giving ceremony. Among them we have (1) Rev. Dr. Thomas Aykara CMI, Rector of Dharmaram College, (2) Rev. Dr. Udumala Bala, Deputy General Secretary, CCBI, (3) Rev. Dr. Jacob Theckanath, Former Director, NBCLC, (4) Rev. Dr. Sylvester D’Souza OCD, representing CRI Karnataka, (5) Rev. Sr. Margaret Lourdunathan SSpS, President of the CRI Bengaluru, (6) Rev. Dr. Evangeline Anderson-Rajkumar, Dean of Doctoral Studies, United Theological College, (7) Rev. Fr. George Plathottam SDB, Secretary, CBCI-OSC, New Delhi and President, art.i, and (8) Rev. Dr. Paul Kattukaran, Secretary, art.i and the person who has conceived both the vision and mission of art.i and the very concept of recognizing the lifetime achievements of eminent artists like Sr. Claire. To all these dignitaries, in the name of all those who have gathered here, may I accord a very cordial welcome! I am very happy to see that a lot of you have turned up to witness this award giving ceremony and to appreciate and congratulate Sr. Claire for her wonderful achievement. I know that a group of artists and theologians have come from NBCLC and another group of religious from various zones of the Bangalore CRI. There are a number of sisters from the SMMI Congregation and their own school children who have come to witness this honouring of one of their own community members. Indeed, your presence adds to the joy of both Sr. Claire and all of us of the organizing committee associated with the art.i and this event held on our Dharmaram Campus. In the name of the organizers, may I accord to you all a very cordial welcome! Dear Fathers, Sisters, Brothers, ladies and gentlemen, your presence in this ceremony adds to our joy and makes it all the more meaningful. Extending to you a very cordial welcome and wishing you a wonderful time honouring Rev. Sr. Claire for her lifetime achievement as an eminent artist of India and a proud daughter of the Indian Church, and hoping that many sons and daughters of our society would be inspired to continue on the noble path of Sr. Claire, contributing to the incarnation mission of the Church, and thus to explore the new avenues of proclaiming God’s Word to the ends of the earth, and welcoming you all once again to this Assisi Art Award giving ceremony,may I remain. Thank you!

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