Pastor writes icon to nourish bodies, souls in Kenya, here

| February 28, 2012 | 0 Comments

When parishioners at St. Elizabeth Ann Seton in Hastings walk into the office of their pastor, Father James Perkl, for the sacrament of reconciliation, they can’t help but notice walls filled with icons he has written (that is the term used for the creation of an icon).

And, as they prepare for absolution, he brings them to the foot of the cross — literally. It is in the form of an icon he wrote in 2007 that depicts Jesus on the cross with Mary and the Apostle John standing beside him, which hangs over his desk.

There’s more. As they turn to walk back out of his office at the conclusion of the sacramental meeting, they can stop and look at his newest creation — The Pentecost Icon. In fact, that represents the next step in their spiritual journey.

Father Perkl made the 3-foot by 3-foot icon with the archdiocese’s partnership with Kitui, Kenya, in mind. A larger reproduction of it was installed in the church and blessed by Bishop Lee Piché on Feb. 18, and a similar reproduction will be given to the Diocese of Kitui. A delegation from Kitui is scheduled to come to Minnesota in September of this year, and Father Perkl will present the icon to them when they visit SEAS.

“The icon represents the physical nature of our Kitui partnership,” Father Perkl said. “You can see the disciples drinking together in the icon as if they are drinking water from one of the dams that we made in the Kitui Diocese.”

Partners in Christ


The icon depicts Jesus sitting around a table with the 11 Apostles and his mother, Mary. The 12 red lines going from the center to each of the apostles and Mary represents the consumption of Christ’s precious blood. And, at the top of the icon is a dove, which represents the Holy Spirit, carrying the Eucharist to those gathered around the table.

African features are noticeable on the faces of those at the table, but they also represent all nations gathered together in unity, Father Perkl explained. It is clear from the icon and his comments that the partnership with Kitui runs deep. In fact, SEAS has been involved in the partnership since it started in 2004, and several people from SEAS, including Father Perkl, have visited Kitui.

“Once you’re there [in Kitui], your heart just gets bigger,” said Janie Carlson, SEAS care team coordinator, who went to Kitui in 2005 with Father Perkl and three others as part of an archdiocesan delegation. “God just infuses your heart with so much. It’s almost indescribable. Your heart never goes back to what it was before you went there.”

Order an iconFor more information and to order a reproduc­tion of the Pentecost icon, visit

Icon to heal ‘literally’

What touched her deeply was seeing the joy in the faces of villagers, and a love for the church that caused many to walk for miles in 110-degree heat to come to Mass.

Carlson’s love for Kitui and her memories of the trip were reignited by Bishop Piché’s remarks about his own visit to Kitui.

Meanwhile, Father Perkl’s passion for icon artistry continues as he works on yet another icon, which he will call Guardian Angel. He started writing icons about 12 years ago and has completed 11 icons, nine of which hang on his office wall.

And, he hopes that the Pentecost icon will hang on many other walls. The parish is selling reproductions of the icon, with proceeds going to the Diocese of Kitui. It’s part of what Father Perkl and the parish call contemplation in action.

“We want prayer to lead into action,”?he said. “By making these icons available, this icon will actually heal the sick, spiritually and also physically, because the money that’s used for buying the icons will go to buy medicine, food and drink for the people in Kitui.”

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