Ministry aims to connect Catholic artists, filmmakers and creators with one another to share ideas and inspiration

DETROIT — In the beginning, God created. And from that moment, He has called us to be co-creators with Him.

The Church is meant for creators, and those creators are tasked by God to make the Church beautiful, said Anthony D’Ambrosio, co-founder of Catholic Creatives, a community of creative minds who connect Catholic artists, designers, photographers and filmmakers.

The community hosted a regional conference Aug. 10 at Sacred Heart Major Seminary in Detroit, inviting artists from Michigan and Ohio to share their own experiences working in creative fields and exploring how best to serve the Church using their talents.

“Catholic Creatives is a community of people who love the Kingdom, want to see it advance, and have been touched by the Lord to make a difference in the Church,” D’Ambrosio told Detroit Catholic. “A lot of times, people in the creative world have these wonderful gifts, but don’t see a place in the Church for their gifts.”

In response to this trend, Catholic Creatives seeks to connect artists with one another and with parishes for potential projects, and to inspire parishes, dioceses and ministries.  

“We believe the Church has the greatest story of all time to tell, but oftentimes, we’re not spreading that story — those gifts — beautifully,” said D’Ambrosio, who helped found Catholic Creatives in Dallas in 2015. 

D’Ambrosio stressed that creativity is essential to the mission of the Church, and all of the faithful are called to explore what gifts they might be able to share.

“Every person is made in the image and likeness of God. And what is that image? It’s told to us in the very beginning of Scripture: God created,” D’Ambrosio said. “God invited us into the same identity as co-creators with Him. A lot of times, we cut ourselves away from those gifts. We don’t use them, either by saying we’re not creative, or we’re not meant to use our gifts to connect people to God.”

D’Ambrosio and other speakers at the all-day conference challenged attendees to push the boundaries of what is seen as “typical Catholic art.”

Paul Duda, art director for the Archdiocese of Detroit, shared some of the design and video projects he has been working on both for the archdiocese and other creative enterprises.

Recognizing the challenges the modern Church faces in broadcasting its message, Duda said now is the time for the laity, especially creative laity, to take charge in preaching the message of Jesus Christ to the world.

“Our faith is more than the cardinals [or] the bishops. The Church is a living, breathing model,” Duda said. “Now is the time to be on mission, to go to the poor places, the crumbling structures, the crumbling faith people are experiencing. Now is the time to go out to the people who other people don’t want to be around. As creators, that’s what we’re here to do, what we’re called to be.”

Paul Duda, left, art director for the Archdiocese of Detroit, leads prayer during the Catholic Creatives regional summit Aug. 10 at Sacred Heart Major Seminary.

Duda shared the history of Detroit, a city that “rose from the ashes” and has constantly reinvented itself through decades of struggles and setbacks.

Duda likened the city’s story with his own story — and the story of many others — who use art to overcome difficulties and insecurities. The result is art that inspires people to carry on the mission, Duda said, recognizing the challenges that come with living a life for Christ.

“God wants me to be here, even when I don’t know why,” Duda said. “God wants me to create for Him, even if there are days when I don’t know what I’m doing.”

“Whatever you do as a creator, there is a beauty to it, a point of connection that someone else can look at and say, ‘Yeah, that’s me,’” Duda continued. “That’s what it means to share our work — even when we think no one else is looking at it — we are sharing our story, our faith. We are doing the work by making that connection.”

Throughout the conference, attendees brainstormed on topics such as how parishes can be more welcoming, cultivating the talent that's already in the pews.

Attendees were also introduced to Our Sunday Visitor’s Innovation Challenge, a start-up competition in which three collaborators will be awarded $100,000 grants to launch an idea to reshape how the Church uses creative talents to evangelize.

Catholic Creatives is working with Our Sunday Visitor on the four-round application process, culminating when finalists present their ideas at the Catholic Creatives Summit in Dallas, April 30 to May 3, 2020. 

The OSV Challenge, along with other resources provided on Catholic Creatives' website, allows Catholic artists to look for new sources of inspiration and new outlets to show their talents across their dioceses — and sometimes the country.

Attendees were introduced to the Our Sunday Visitor Innovation Challenge, a nationwide competition offering $100,000 grants for creative Catholic-themed projects.

“If you’re the pastor at the helm of a parish with a mandate to redo what you’re doing, the No. 1 priority of the process will be getting the right people behind you,” D’Ambrosio said. “In order to do that, to inspire that kind of change, pastors will need to get involved in tapping into the resources around them.”

“We’re here to connect people across the nation,” D’Ambrosio said. “We want parishes and ministries to find the right people for the job, people who can help articulate the mission, which is the most important part in getting people right off the bat to buy into what the pastor is trying to do.”

Conference attendees walked away with a greater sense of community among the creative people who live in the area.

“Right now, creatives need to be given a place to belong in the Church, and that is why meetings like this are important, because they don’t have that place to belong to yet,” D’Ambrosio said. “Creatives have so much to offer, to help solve problems. The questions we face as a Church, from renewal to finances, all need to have that creative voice. But first, that creative voice needs to be at the table, if we’re to make our Church beautiful.”