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Inspired by her spirituality and the
influence of St Brigid of Ireland, artist Gail
Donovan hopes her works have managed
to touch the souls of young and old over
the past 20 years.
Among the vibrant grandmother’s latest
projects was a labour of love spanning
more than a decade which involved the
design of beautiful leadlight windows
and furniture and glass mosaic work at
Nazareth Catholic College’s junior and
senior campuses and Our Lady of the
Manger Church at Findon.
“Colour and movement” are the integral
elements to her work, and according to
Gail hopefully speak of “spirit and light” to
those who see them.
“I am inspired by a lot of things, but what
I am most happy about is if my work
touches something in someone else and
uplifts them a little,” she said.
A secondary art teacher for 27 years, Gail
took the bold step to become a full time
artist after what could be described as a
revelation during a retreat she attended
with Year 12 students during her teaching
days at Kildare College.
She described how she was meditating
at the retreat – something she also
encouraged with her students – and a
burning sensation filled her left foot, “as
though it was on fire”.
“Then in front of my eyes in my mind was
a small space and there were things on the
walls and others on stools and I thought
‘this is an opening of an art exhibition...
and that’s my work’!”
Twelve months later she took a sabbatical
from teaching to test the waters as an
artist and after designing two leadlight
windows and completing 16 silk paintings
in 16 weeks she knew this was what God
wanted for her.
“I just felt so alive and I knew I wasn’t
going back to teaching,” she explained.
Twenty years later, she has completed
more than 35 commissions for Catholic
schools and churches throughout
Australia, Ireland, Scotland and the USA
and her artwork continues to inspire.
Among some of her favourite projects was
designing the leadlight windows for the
chapel at Kildare College, designing all the
leadlight windows for St Bride’s Church
in Dundee, Scotland – which also took
her onsite to oversee the project for two
months – and painting images of St Brigid
for the Brigidine Order.
“In 1999 I was asked by the Brigidines in
Ireland to paint an image of Brigid carrying
‘The Light’ into the new millennium. That
was the most awesome, profound and
Gail said she felt a “special connection”
with St Brigid, who had provided the
inspiration for many of her silk paintings
which were now scattered throughout the
A former Methodist, Gail converted to
Catholicism at age 38 so she could
celebrate her strong faith with her family.
“I had my own faith and it was alive and
well and real, but when I went to church
with Dan and the kids I couldn’t go to
communion and that was really painful.”
Now 70, Gail has no intentions of slowing
down and hopes her artwork will continue
to inspire others from all religious or
She is also passionate about encouraging
others to engage in ‘art as meditation’
and often facilitates this experience
at retreat days for Catholic staff and
others. Through meditation people are
encouraged to clear their mind, connect
with their inner soul or spirit and then
express this creatively through the use of
paints, crayons, or even modelling clay.
“There is something special in all of us and
we each have a unique expression of our
faith and spirituality through art,” she said.
“For me, art is my meditation – it’s
nurturing for my soul. I am never happier
and more peaceful than when I am doing
LET THERE BE (BEAUTIFUL) LIGHT: Nazareth junior students Charlie Tonkin
(Year 3) and Amelia Radloff (Year 1) admire the stained glass windows at Our Lady
of the Manger Church, Findon, which were designed by artist Gail Donovan.
Photo: Nat Rogers
By Lindy McNamara
Inspiring others through art
History will repeat itself when past and
present parishioners come together
later this month to celebrate significant
anniversaries for three churches in the
When Archbishop Sheil visited Sevenhill in
1866 to consecrate the St Aloysius Church
there was much fanfare as the local
Catholic community gathered to celebrate
such a momentous occasion.
According to a report in the South
Australian Weekly Chronicle at the time, “a
procession was formed, in which were not
fewer than 300 horsemen and between 30
and 40 vehicles of every description” to
escort the Bishop from St Patrick’s Church
at Undalya to Sevenhill.
What greeted the Bishop on his arrival
was a “triumphal arch, on which were
beautifully worked in evergreens, the
crosier and mitre – emblems of the
episcopal office. On the College grounds
two other arches were erected by the
students, who displayed great taste in their
design and ornamentation”, the newspaper
Similarly, later this month on Saturday
November 19 a special welcome is
planned for Archbishop Wilson at
Sevenhill after he is escorted from Undalya
to preside over the sesquicentenary
celebrations. Children from St Joseph’s
School, Clare will participate.
As part of the event a new coffee-table
book detailing the story of the Jesuits, their
mission and vineyard at Sevenhill will be
available for purchase.
At 6pm Archbishop Wilson will celebrate
a sung Mass, which will be followed by
supper at La Storta Barn.
On Sunday the focus will shift to the
centenary celebrations marking the
consecration of the Our Lady Queen of
Peace Church at Auburn, and the 100-year
anniversary of the closure of St Patrick’s
Church at Undalya.
Vicar General Father Philip Marshall will
lead the 11am sung Mass at Auburn,
which will be followed by lunch and then a
memorial service and blessing of graves at
St Patrick’s Cemetery, Undalya.
To conclude the series of anniversary
events, Bishop O’Kelly will officially
launch The Vine and the Branches: The
Fruits of the Sevenhill Mission book at
the St Ignatius Church Hall, Norwood on
Thursday December 1 at 6pm.
For more information about the events,
contact the parish on 08 8843 5940.
Sesquicentenary events to reflect history
HERITAGE: The sanctuary of St Aloysius Church at Sevenhill, prior to its
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