MUMBAI, India – For Sister Vimala Joseph, consecrated life is about the beauty of Jesus.
“We worship the Lord in beauty,” she said on Feb. 2, the World Day of Consecrated Life.
Joseph joined the Sister Disciples of the Divine Master – a member of the Pauline community – at of 17 years and has been doing sacred art for 35 years. Beginning in 1982, she studied architecture at Liceo Artistico Boccioni in Milan, Italy, and completed a course on the basics of sculpture, painting and architecture.
Joseph is a member of the community at Prarthnalaya (House of Prayer) in the Bandra neighborhood of Mumbai, where she has a workshop where she and her team do painting, mosaic artwork, and stained-glass works, interior design, fiberglass artwork, stained glass and statues.
“Beauty attracts and helps people realize divine good does prevail,” she told Crux.
“Through my sacred art, I hope to bring the Kingdom of God to earth, including restoring the beauty that is present in creation – and adding to it. Even non-Christians are drawn into the beauty of sacred arts. Sacred art cultivates the ability to imagine a future and so transcend the present moment and infuse hope,” she continued.
He is currently working on the mosaic of St. Paul on the wall of the Prarthnalaya Chapel.
“I realized that we had such a big chapel but nothing in it about our spirituality. Our spirituality is mainly of Jesus Master, Mary Queen of Apostles and St. Paul. These are the three pillars our spirituality,” she said.
“Our founder, Blessed James Alberione, emphasized that the Apostle Paul was founder of the ‘house’ – the Pauline family. The house where the light of the Gospel must shine is the house where each one of us lives and also a house open to the world. We are all called to the Christian apostolate,” she explained.
She said she realized that St. Paul wasn’t present in the community’s chapel.
“We had Mary Queen of Apostles and Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament and the beautiful depiction of Christ Crucified but no St. Paul,” she recalled.
“I was inspired to create an image of St. Paul – something permanent – and so took up the work in mosaic,” Joseph explained. “With mosaic, there is no need of maintenance and the artwork looks beautiful. It is definitely painstaking and time-consuming but very beautiful once finished.”
She uses the traditional image of St. Pau, with the Bible in one hand, and a sword in the other.
“This prompts many to ask about the significance and gives the opportunity to evangelize and is thus an active mode of preaching,” she said.
India’s COVID-19 lockdown has kept the nun busy: She has also done mosaics of St. Paul Mary Queen of the Apostles for her order’s chapel in Delhi.
“The lockdown was a very productive and reflective time for me to create my artworks. I even found time to do a very beautiful imagery of orchids,” she said.
“When I get a request for a design, I find out the church’s patron saint to use the appropriate symbols. Mostly, the paschal mystery is depicted in the churches I have designed. If it is for a convent chapel, I study the spirituality of that particular congregation and pray over it. Prayer and fasting are very important for divine inspiration,” Joseph told Crux.
“God continues to bless me with new ideas to design innovative churches across India. It feels good linking my spiritual yearnings with the design themes. In fact, I feel spiritually fulfilled when designing churches,” she said.