Painting aids retired bishop on spiritual journey

By  Sara Loftson, The Catholic Register
  • January 22, 2007

Bishop LaceyTORONTO - There is barely a square inch of free wall space in Bishop Pearse Lacey's North York apartment. The walls are covered with dozens of portrait and landscape paintings, most of which he painted himself.

"Not many people would know that I paint except for my relatives," said Lacey, auxiliary bishop emeritus of Toronto.

Hundreds of family and friends celebrated Lacey's 90th birthday Nov. 26 at Blessed Trinity parish in Toronto. It was there that many found out about his hobby. He surprised several hundred of his family and friends by giving each of his guests a postcard-size replica of one of his paintings. Lacey believes it is his finest work, a picture he painted in 2001 of Pope John Paul II holding a crucifix mounted on a staff standing in front of the earth as seen from outer space.

"Painting has helped in my personal growth, even spiritually, because it's made me so much more conscious of creation," said Lacey.

"Certainly, my knowledge and appreciation of God has developed."

Lacey said he stops to admire creation during his daily outdoor walks. His observation of nature is what fuels his desire to replicate what he sees on canvas.

Lacey said he mainly enjoys painting portraits of family and friends and landscapes of Ireland that represent his ancestral past.

"I'm a people person so I like to liven up pictures with having people in them."

However, Lacey's taste is diverse, from painting pictures of Kensington Market, to the government building outside his window, to his most recent work — a replicate of a clipping he found in the local newspaper.

Since his retirement in 1993 Lacey has completed about a dozen paintings, but he's painted dozens more throughout his life.

His interest in painting was sparked as a young priest, but he said in those days his busy schedule left little time for hobbies. He's never taken formal art training, but over the years has taken private lessons from professional painters. He was in charge of commissioning artists to paint a portrait of Archbishop Philip Pocock and later-Archbishop Aloysius Ambrozic. One of the artists who got the job was Francis Dvorak from Toronto. Later he took portrait lessons from Dvorak every two weeks for a year.

"When you paint you forget everything. It's very intense," said Lacey, who has in the past found himself up until 2 a.m. working on projects.

While painting has primarily remained a private hobby for Lacey, he has given away some of his art to family and friends.

"The last thing I thought is I'd become a painter. We should never close the door on ourselves in terms of what we are capable of doing."

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