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Father Champagnat surrounded by children



New Champagnat stained glass window at St Joseph’s Marist School

23/06/2006: South Africa

As usual, the entire school body of Rondebosch, Cape Town, walked to the nearby St Michael’s parish church for the Champagnat Day celebration led by Archbishop Lawrence Henry in his usual youth-friendly and pastoral style. After the liturgy, staff the school returned to the campus where they assembled outside the school chapel for the unveiling and blessing of a new stained glass window of Champagnat.

This event was the culmination of an undertaking made by some of the lay Marist pilgrims to Rome and Champagnat country in 2005. They committed themselves in before both Br Seán Sammon in Rome and the community at L’Hermitage to commemorate the work of the Brothers in South Africa in some special way.

The new window depicts Father Champagnat in the centre surrounded by children, whose complexion, hair and faces are based on those of typical youngsters at this school. The lower panel includes a pallid lad as the dying Jean-Baptiste Montagne whose red scarf alludes to those bloody times of revolution and war. Champagnat is depicted as an inspired youngster – obviously borrowed from the window in the Hermitage chapel as a link to our roots. Apart from the faces of the youngsters, there is another local feature. An outline of Devils Peak appears in the top panel. This striking mountain dominates the campus.

During the short blessing ceremony the artist, Diane Page, displayed her painting on which the final work is based and highlighted its essential elements. Before undertaking her work, she had visited the classes and taken pictures of current learners and based her images on some of those faces. She advised the students to look carefully - they might even recognise themselves in the window!
Then, Jan Bitenco, the craftsman of Romanian origin, explained the processes involved in converting an artistic work on canvas into his medium of speciality – stained glass.

Thanks to the initiative and drive of our pilgrims, funds were raised from former students and others to make the project possible. A second window is already being completed and will be installed in the near future.

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