Aotearoa New Zealand’s Catholic bishops are seeking an artist to create a work commemorating Bishop Jean-Baptiste Pompallier’s 1838 dedication of the country to Mary the Mother of Jesus.
The bishops’ National Liturgy Office has begun advertising for an artist who will create a work incorporating Mary for a special commemoration next August 15, the Feast Day of the Assumption of Mary into Heaven, celebrated annually by Catholics around the world.
It is a Holy Day of Obligation on which the faithful are expected to attend Mass, even if not a Sunday. National Liturgy Office administrator Catherine Gibbs says August 15 next year is also a Sunday, making the 2021 Assumption a particularly special day for Catholics.
“The bishops want to commission a work of art for that day, to commemorate Bishop Pompallier dedicating the country to Mary when he celebrated the first Catholic Mass here in 1838, in the Hokianga,” Catherine Gibbs said.
“We are advertising for artists to submit expressions of interest for an appropriate artwork. It could be a sculpture, a painting, a carving; any suitable kind of work. The intention is that it will be taken on a hikoi around the country next year to commemorate the dedication to Mary.”
Bishop Pompallier – who was associated with the Society of Mary – was the first Catholic bishop of Aotearoa New Zealand, serving in this country from 1838 to 1868, when he returned to his native France. He was present for the signing of the Treaty of Waitangi in 1840, and published some of the first printed Maori prayer books.
In a pastoral letter about the 1838 dedication of the country to Mary, the New Zealand bishops wrote: “Bishop Pompallier placed our country under the protection of Mary as she is now – alive, body and soul, rejoicing in the happiness of God’s kingdom.”
Catherine Gibbs said the bishops want an artist who will create a work with for the theme Mary Mother of God and Patroness of Aotearoa New Zealand. “We are looking for an image that is new and speaks to the reality of life in Aotearoa New Zealand in the 21st Century. It will be respectful of scripture, theology and Catholic tradition.”
There is not much time. Prospective artists need to register their interest by 15 October. The chosen artist will need to have the work finished by May. An appropriate fee will be negotiated with the artist.
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