Last week I was in the Townsville Diocese where as well as enjoying lovely warm weather, I participated in two particularly thought provoking conversations. The first was about Recontextualisation and the second was about art. It turns out that they were very connected.
‘Recontextualisation’ refers to any formal process whereby something is placed in a new context, thereby receiving renewed meaning and plausibility. The term is essential in the ‘Catholic Identity Project’ where a combination of quality of cultural and theological reflection and empirical and practical instruments that are used to help schools understand their Catholic identity and take action in relation to it. The ‘Catholic Identity Project’ was originally developed and implemented in Victorian Catholic Schools as a result of a partnership between the Education Commission and Leuven University (Belgium). Currently several other dioceses are involved.
In relation to Catholic Schools, Recontextualisation means translating the Catholic Faith and bringing it to life in the present context. Ideally a deep encounter occurs between tradition and contemporary life so a fusion occurs and renewed access is possible to the richness of the Catholic tradition. Good teachers and wise school leaders have always been committed to this process and indeed it has occurred throughout the history of the Church.
As I mentioned earlier I was particularly struck by efforts made in some Catholic Schools to develop/commission religious art that communicates the essence of the tradition and that engages students, their families and staff. The thoughtful use of art in schools is part of the quest to express the Gospel and to inspire the viewer to live the Gospel today. It is an obvious outcome of recontextualisation.
Mardi Kearny develops beautiful sculptures that really engage! ‘Mary and the child’ becomes Mary and the children quite naturally.
Jan Hynes represents the Visitation at a coffee shop on the Strand at Townsville with the distinctive outline of Magnetic Island in the distance.