When Lucianne Siers DIA Board past president, began her latest ministry as Director of the Institute of Religious Formation at the Chicago Theological Union, she was delighted to learn that vocations to consecrated life are flourishing on every continent except Europe and North America and that formation personnel for this new generation comes to the U.S. for training. Last summer when she welcomed an international class of twenty-three formation and sabbatical members to a left-brained curriculum heavy with lectures in theology and spiritual reading, she immediately recognized the need for some relaxing right-brain sessions with an artist to reawaken their creativity and perhaps, facilitate communication among them through a common experience of visual language. More importantly, Lucianne reasoned, the right experience of art could fulfill formation goals in personal development and self-expression. Immediately she thought of Joeann Daley an artist always eager to explore new possibilities.
Joeann accepted the challenging request with the same enthusiasm with which she always embraces a new genre. In two ninety-minute sessions, Joeann presented neither a standard art appreciation lecture nor an inspiring Visio Divina meditation. She answered the perennial question, “What is art?” by giving the group hands-on experiences designed to release the fearful from self-inhibition and stimulate ways to explore new terrain.
“I can’t draw a straight line myself, and probably no one here can either,” she assured them. “So, let’s just make marks on paper. No mistakes, just possibilities.” Outdoors, Joeann urged the class to observe how the Creator had made distinctive “marks” on grasses, weeds, rocks, and flowers. Gradually, blank white papers filled with a startling variety of rhythmic lines and shapes. The room filled with excitement and faces became radiant as the group relaxed, comfortable with a unique version of “continuing formation.”
Joeann herself enjoyed engaging with a new population. Her impact encourages Director Lucianne to hope that this distinguished professor will return next year to contribute to the CTU Hesburgh Sabbatical program.
From the article “Art Makes Its Mark on Formation” published in the Dominican Institute of the Arts enewsletter OPallette E-Newsletter, Winter 2019