“No matter what race or color you are, we are all human beings and we should all love each other,” reads a reflection about this artwork, created by a member of St. Anthony Parish who wishes to remain anonymous. (Katie Scott/Catholic Sentinel)
“No matter what race or color you are, we are all human beings and we should all love each other,” reads a reflection about this artwork, created by a member of St. Anthony Parish who wishes to remain anonymous. (Katie Scott/Catholic Sentinel)

TIGARD — Climate change, pandemic-caused isolation, LGBTQ harassment, racism, sexism. These were some of the themes explored in pencil and paint, collage and video at St. Anthony Church here last month.

The artwork was part of a project intended to give youths a forum for their concerns and struggles, reconnect with them after time apart, and delve into Catholic social teaching.

Danny Rauda, parish social justice coordinator, organized the Aug. 12 art show, entitled “New Beginnings.”

“My immediate reaction to their work was that they are talented and they are bold,” said Rauda before the evening event, held in the parish hall. “The topics you see here, some are controversial, and the kids are passionate about talking about them.”

Rauda said he was impressed by how attentive the young people are to social issues, acknowledging he didn’t reflect upon realities such as colonialism or systemic racism until graduate school.

He said the youths’ art also helps parish staff understand “where the kids are at.”

“From here we can begin to unpack things in light of Scripture and tradition and church teaching,” he said. “This is the listening portion and then we will dialogue.”

One of the best ways to reach youths, he added “is to first talk about issues they care about.”

The art show was open to 12- to 18-year-olds from the parish and St. Anthony School. Given it was held during the summer and was a new initiative, Rauda knew it would have a modest turnout and was pleased eight youths participated.

Father John Henderson, pastor, said the art show is part of a broader listening campaign at the parish.

“For a long time during the pandemic we were not able to be with the young, so the main thing is trying to get youth back together and to hear what’s on their minds,” said the priest.

As they crafted their pieces, the young artists were asked to reflect on several questions, among them: What injustice did you see during the pandemic? How did you become interested in this issue in a personal way? What do our faith and Catholic social teaching say about it?

The evening art show drew about 30 community members and included activities for families, a display on Catholic social teaching, and a prayer by Father Henderson.  

Lauren Marthaller, a student at St. Anthony School, created a short film for the art show.

Lauren Marthaller, an eighth grader at St. Anthony School, created a short film that played on a large screen throughout the show. The movie featured photos snapped during last summer’s racial justice protests.

“I went to marches with my mom, sister and dad, and I chose a topic that’s so important right now with the recent shootings,” said Marthaller. “I hope people can see that there’s too much hatred and racism in the world — but that you can make a change.”

To prepare for the art show, Rauda invited a successful young Catholic visual artist to give a virtual presentation to the parish youths. Chloe Becker, an Ohio teen who will enter Harvard University this year, creates art that highlights racial justice from a Catholic perspective.

“She led a retreat and said many mediums — from film to poetry to fashion — can be used to explore social justice,” said Rauda. He added that the parish will continue to use art as a platform to talk about current events and Catholic teaching in the months ahead.

Valerie Rodas, 15, held her 3-month-old brother, Marvin, as she spoke about her pencil-drawn piece during the art show. She’d spelled out “Family First,” and diverse faces filled each letter.

Rodas wanted to address how communities were separated during the pandemic.

“I missed going to Mass and talking to people after,” she said. “Catholic social teaching says we are called to family, community and participation, and that’s what I wanted to show.” 

Valerie Rodas introduces her 3-month-old brother, Marvin, to his first art show last month.

Ryan Lomber, a freshman at Valley Catholic High School who entered the church this past Easter Vigil, created several pieces.

For one she used clippings from her dad’s magazines to create a collage about caring for creation. Another was a mixed-medium work with images of St. Alexandra, St. Angela and St. Agnes.

Lomber said she wanted to lift up Catholic women’s voices. “These women spoke up for women and girls, for others, but it was not easy and others were silenced.”

Creating the artwork “felt like I could use my voice but not have to speak,” said Lomber. “Sometimes a picture can be more powerful than writing or talking.”