Local artist embarks on quest to sketch every parish in the diocese

Jul 26, 2023
Chris Reed, artist and St. Margaret Mary, Winter Park, illustrates parishes throughout the diocese. (GLENDA MEEKINS)

WINTER PARK | It began with St. Margaret Mary Parish in Winter Park. As a place of special meaning for artist Chris Reed, it was the perfect place to kick-off his goal to sketch each of the 80 parishes, two basilicas and 11 missions in the Diocese of Orlando. What started as a way to fill the extra time Reed suddenly had during paternity leave, has now become a mission to highlight the beauty of the faith that each of these buildings embody.

“Initially, it was a hobby, a personal endeavor, a way to engage with my faith on a deeper level. But as I delved into the project, I realized that it might also serve a larger purpose. By capturing these sanctuaries in my sketches, I hope to highlight the beauty inherent in these spaces, places where we gather in worship,” said Reed. “The ultimate goal? To inspire an appreciation for these architectural treasures and deepen the connection people feel with their places of worship.”

By day, Reed works in the tech industry but by embarking on this journey, he returns to a childhood love of drawing and painting that was nurtured by his father. During his high school years, he took as many art classes as possible and for a time, considered attending the Savannah College of Art and Design. Though he ultimately chose a different path, art has remained a large part of his life and means of connecting with God.

“This project, in particular, has become an extraordinary avenue for expressing and deepening my faith. Each sketch is more than just an artistic endeavor. It’s a labor of love, a meditation, and a form of prayer,” Reed said. “As I draw, I feel a closer connection with God, a profound sense of being in His presence. In a way, each stroke of my pen or brush serves as a tangible manifestation of my devotion, my gratitude for this gift, and my attempt to use it for His glory.”

Reed describes his process as a blend of technology and traditional techniques. His brushstrokes are made on a digital canvas, based off reference images of the parishes found online, often using Google Earth to create a comprehensive view. Each sketch takes about one week to complete from beginning research to applying a watercolor effect to capture the unique character of each building.

For several of the parishes, the project becomes deeply personal. While drawing St. Margaret Mary Parish, Reed recalls the wedding vows he and wife exchanged there and the Baptism of two of their children. Saints Peter and Paul Parish in Winter Park is where their son attended VPK. At St. Andrew Parish in Orlando, Reed received his First Holy Communion, while at Resurrection in Winter Garden he served as altar boy and received the Sacrament of Confirmation. He remembers the years spent at Holy Family Parish in Orlando as a time of growing in knowledge and faith.

“Each of these parishes has witnessed and facilitated key moments of my faith journey, instilling in me an enduring affection for them,” Reed said. “My relationship with these parishes isn’t just about physical presence; it’s intrinsically linked to my personal faith journey. Each church holds a piece of my history, and through the rites and celebrations held within their walls, they’ve all contributed to the shape of my faith today.”

Currently, Reed has completed 18 sketches, releasing the final artwork on his Instagram page: @all_the_catholic_churches. Using the liturgical calendar as a guide, Reed worked on Corpus Christi Parish in Celebration for the Solemnity of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ on June 11.

“As for the order of parishes, I’ve taken an approach that aligns with the rhythm of the liturgical year. I plan my sketches based on the upcoming feast days of the saints associated with each parish. The intent is to coincide the release of each sketch with its corresponding feast day, adding a layer of celebration and connection to each work,” Reed said.

For Reed, it is an opportunity to use his God-given gifts with others, something he believes everyone is called to do.

“In a sense, these sketches are not only a personal passion project, but also a way to share my love for the beauty of our faith’s architectural heritage with others who might appreciate it,” he said. “I truly believe that God bestows upon each one of us a unique gift, a personal way to connect with Him and contribute to our community. While some might be called to serve through reading at the lectern or singing hymns, I’ve discovered my gift lies in my artistic ability.”

All the Catholic Churches

By Elizabeth Wilson, Special to the Florida Catholic, July 27, 2023