Christopher Lushis
Freelance Writer
October 12, 2022 // Diocese

Artwork Displays Catholic Faith at Holy Cross Exhibit

Christopher Lushis
Freelance Writer

Angelo Ray Martínez came to Holy Cross College with the intention to teach students how to create beautiful art that could transform others. He did not expect, however, that he would also be transformed by this experience and find himself a participant in God’s own creative designs.

Martínez began teaching at Holy Cross College in January of 2017 as an adjunct professor before eventually becoming an Assistant Professor and Director of Visual Arts. Originally from Boulder, Colorado, Martínez has received both a Bachelors and Master’s in Fine Arts in Painting. However, neither his early family life nor his formal academic study had much intersection with Christianity. 

Photos provided by Angelo Ray Martinez
Participants who contributed to the Art of Faith Exhibit at Holy Cross College gather during a reception on October 6.

When he arrived at Holy Cross College, Martínez planned to teach art techniques to young people and guide them to bring their deepest passions to life. As he had been accustomed to art being primarily a secular endeavor separate from one’s faith, he was challenged by then-Holy Cross President Father David Tyson, CSC, who implored faculty across every discipline to discern how to bring Catholicism into the classroom “in a direct and meaningful way.” Further education came from seeing the devotion of his students, some of whom, motivated by their Catholic faith, sought to depict a love for Jesus Christ in their artistic work. Inspired particularly by students Teresa (Breckler) Roerty and Catherine Oliva, both natives of the Fort Wayne-South Bend diocese, Martínez witnessed firsthand how those with a zealous love for God could use art as a primary means of evangelization. 

Written by local artist Stephen Barany, this Icon depicts the Holy Family in the style of Rublev’s classic portrayal of the Holy Trinity. Using the original creation of Romanian artist Mihai Cucu as the prototype, Barany wrote this Icon in preparation for his wedding this past June to be a gift for their guests.

This influenced his own faith journey as well. Initially, he had been drawn to Holy Cross because had been open to the possibility of becoming Catholic. However, as most adult converts experience, there were still challenges and intellectual obstacles he and his wife, fellow artist Melanie Mulkey, had to work through. Over the next few years, they continued to explore the possibility of entering the Church. Surrounded by a loving community of faculty and staff, both Angelo and Melanie were encouraged to remain open to God’s invitations, which they did. Through this encouragement they both completed the RCIA process and were baptized into the Catholic Church at the Easter Vigil Mass earlier this year.

Now, Martínez is seeking new and more extensive ways to reveal the artistic beauty of Christianity to the world. This desire led him to create and oversee a public exhibit at Holy Cross College entitled, “The Art of Faith,” which depicts the extraordinary work of local artists inspired by their Catholic faith. The exhibit, located in the St. Joseph Galley within Driscoll Lounge, is open to the public until December 16. 

Martínez shared, “I hope that viewers are inspired to reflect on their own faith even deeper. Some of the artworks in the exhibition are more traditional and straightforward, while others are more abstract and symbolic. Hopefully, visitors will gain a stronger appreciation for the beauty of our Catholic faith, develop a more complex understanding of Christian thought, and see how art is utilized for worship and discipleship in our contemporary culture.”

A charcoal drawing by Holy Cross student Cecilia Simerman, this image uniquely depicts the Body of Christ, reflecting the unity between Christ’s physical body which St. Thomas the Apostle was invited to touch after the Resurrection, and the Eucharistic host worshipped at Mass and in Adoration of the Most Blessed Sacrament.

One of the Holy Cross student submissions to the exhibit, a charcoal drawing entitled “Ecce Agnus Dei” by Cecilia Simerman, creatively depicts a love for Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament. She shared, “Eucharistic devotion is the most important part of my spiritual life.” 

When given an assignment to draw something inspired by Scripture, she was drawn to the interaction where Jesus revealed His wounds to St. Thomas the Apostle. She explained, “my intention was to communicate the reality of the Real Presence in the Eucharist, showing the connection between that moment in the Gospels where he reveals His wounds, with the Mass and Adoration. We are looking at the exact same Body of Christ, we don’t see Him in the same way Thomas did, but It is the same Body. The monstrance conveys that and the title connects to the point in the Mass where the Eucharist is revealed to the congregation. It is about how Christ reveals Himself to us, how that moment transcends time, how He invites us to behold Him every time we see the Eucharist.”

Another piece was provided by local artist Stephen Barany, who wrote an Icon of the Holy Family, inspired by the original unique creation of Romanian artist Mihai Cucu, which recalls Andrei Rublev’s classic icon of the Holy Trinity, displayed at the 2018 World Meeting of Families in Ireland. Using Cucu’s image as a prototype, Barany originally wrote this for his wedding this past June to provide guests with a beautiful depiction of the Holy Family to remember the occasion. Barany stated, “in the image, the Holy Family celebrates the Feast of Passover, for which they traveled annually to Jerusalem. Mary ponders in her heart the mystery of her Son, and Joseph holds out his hands to present his adopted son, the true Lamb of God. Jesus raises his hand in a sign of blessing and invitation. He has left open the fourth side of the table; it is open for you. At the Last Supper, also a Passover meal in Jerusalem, Jesus told the gathered Apostles, ‘I call you friends, I chose you and I commissioned you to go out and bear fruit, fruit that will last.’ With God’s help, may we each accept Jesus’ invitation of friendship, imitate the Holy Family, and bear in our lives the lasting fruit of the Holy Spirit.”

Barany further shared that he decided to participate in this exhibit because he felt it was “important for Holy Cross students to see that they are part of a broader community of faith that includes the South Bend, Mishawaka, and Granger areas, and that they are connected to local parishes in some way. For students to see at least ten local artists depict their faith artistically communicates that practicing Christians in this place make a full effort to live out, to make real and tangible their belief and fidelity to God.”

Painted by Holy Cross student Stephanie Nuñez, this image, entitled “Home Alter” is a reflection on the cultural practices she has witnessed in many Hispanic households. This introduction of a home altar also serves to “alter” the spiritual dimension of the home, elevating the heart and mind to God.

This has certainly been the experience of Martínez as his faith journey has progressed and grown. He shared that it is his hope for more faith-based artistic endeavors to take place at Holy Cross which further the Church’s mission of inviting people, both inside and outside the faith, to see the profound beauty Catholicism offers to lift each soul closer to God and into deeper relationship with Him.

All are invited to visit this exhibit at Holy Cross College, open during regular business hours. More information about the individual pieces of the exhibit can be found at

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