A couple days ago, I got an email from Deacon Charles Rohrbacher in the Diocese of Juneau (Alaska), who wanted me to know about a fundraiser they are undertaking to help Christians in Iraq — and, specifically, to support the work of CNEWA.
Charles is a gifted artist who has created some magnificent icons (such as the one above). Now many of his most beautiful works are about to be sold, with all money going to benefit persecuted minorities in the Middle East. I was curious to know more, so he answered a few questions by email yesterday.
Q: Tell us about this unusual fundraising idea.
A:This coming Friday at the parish hall of the cathedral in Juneau, Alaska, we are having a fundraiser we are calling “Icons for Iraq” to support the relief work of CNEWA and CRS on behalf of Christians and other persecuted minorities in northern Iraq.
We are having an exhibit for the community this coming Friday from 4:30-7:00pm (AST) at the parish hall, displaying the original art from two books that I recently illustrated for Liturgical Press, “The Illuminated Easter Proclamation (Exsultet)” and the “The Passions of Holy Week” (which in June was honored by the Catholic Press Association.)
Parishioners and community members are invited to come by to see the artwork and have something to eat and drink. Everyone is encouraged to make a donation to CRS and/or CNEWA. In addition, all of the art on exhibit will be available for a donation — we have set a minimum donation for each of the matted and framed icon illustrations (although we’d be delighted if donors wished to contribute more.)
Q: Where did the idea come from?
A: I got the idea as I was praying last week for Iraqi Christians. I was pondering what I might have to offer that could be of help to the Christians in Iraq who are in such dire need and it occurred to me that donating this artwork might be a way to help out.
I continued to pray about doing this, talked it over with some of my colleagues in ministry and then asked for the blessing of my bishop, Edward J. Burns, which he enthusiastically gave, along with the sponsorship of the Diocese of Juneau for the event.
Q: Have you or the diocese ever done anything like this before?
A: Our diocese is small here but our people are quite generous and creative raising funds for the work of the Church here and abroad. But I think this is the first time that I can recall that we’ve done something like this with icons.
Q: Tell us a little about your own background as an icon writer and deacon.
A: I just marked my seventh anniversary as a deacon and I regard creating icons as a part of my diaconal ministry. I’ve been doing this for the past 34 years. I’m grateful that I was able to study first with a Russian Orthodox iconographer and then with Fr. Egon Sendler SJ, a Byzantine Catholic iconographer in France. In Alaska and in other parts of the country, I’ve been fortunate to have painted (or written) icons for Orthodox, Eastern andRoman Catholic parishes. I’ve also done painted illustrations for Liturgical Press and Oregon Catholic Press.
What attracted me to the icon so many years ago was my discovery that the icon was, in the tradition of the undivided Church, a participation in the proclamation of the Word of God. The defense of the icon at the Second Council of Nicaea in 787 was the last place of formal agreement between the Eastern and Western Churches. This suggested to me that the icon might be an occasion for unity between Christians, reaching across the various divisions and misunderstandings that separate us.
Q: How can people bid on this art?
A: The main event is on Friday, 22 August here in Juneau. But anyone interested in making an early donation to obtain a specific icon should contact me by noon Thursday, via email: firstname.lastname@example.org. The work being made available can be seen at the Facebook page of my studio, The New Jerusalem Workshop.
All requests from outside of Juneau will need to pay via credit card. All items that need to be shipped will have an additional 15% charge to cover postage and shipping.
To learn more, visit the “Icons for Iraq” page (old/broken link: https://www.dioceseofjuneau.org/news/270) at the Diocese of Juneau website.