Q  How did you develop an interest in becoming an iconographer of religious subjects?

A  I have always been intrigued by religious iconography. Three years ago a friend of mine was telling me that she was in a class learning the art of writing religious icons. I told her if there was ever an opening I would love to join the group. At that very time there was and I was invited to join and have fallen in love with this prayer form. We call it a prayer form because you are actually “writing a prayer” when you create an icon in veneration of Christ, Mary or one of the saints. Ginny Bolin is our instructor and has been so generous with her time, talent and love of this prayer form. I have attended numerous workshops and am trying to become a better writer of these prayers. One of my favorites is an icon called “Don’t cry for me, Mother.” In this icon Jesus is rising from the tomb and Mary and he are cheek to cheek in a very powerful and emotional embrace.

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…with Father DONALD BLANCHARD, retired priest of the Diocese of Baton Rouge


What are some of the most interesting places you have visited and subjects you have photographed in your passionate pursuit of photography? How long are you willing to wait for conditions to be “just right” to take your photographs?

A  I have enjoyed photography for many years, enjoying mostly landscapes and flowers. After I retired, Father Gerald Burns invited me to join him on some of his photography trips. He is a very accomplished wildlife photographer. He has and still does teach me so much about photography and for that I am very grateful. We have been as far as Bosque del Apache in New Mexico to photograph Sand Hill Cranes and Canadian Snow Geese during their winter migration. You wait sometimes for hours to hopefully get the great photograph and sometimes you see nothing. It doesn’t matter because you have a lot of time to meditate and appreciate the beauty of nature and God’s presence in all of it.

Q  When did you start giving retreats and parish missions?

I was invited seven years ago to give a retreat at the Cenacle in New Orleans, which was a retreat house for women in New Orleans. It is now called the Archdiocesan Spirituality Center. Though retreats for women are still a major focus, there are many other opportunities for spiritual renewal there. The evaluations indicated that I was a source of grace for these women and so I have continued this ministry giving sometimes as many as six retreats there a year. I also conduct on an average of two parish missions a year. I enjoy being able to do my best to help others taste the love and mercy of God and the challenge to grow as spiritual persons. The key to all of this is preaching to myself as well and never saying to others what I don’t say to myself.

Q  Tell us something that most people may not know about you.

A  That is an interesting invitation. Being an over the wall extrovert, I can’t think of much that people don’t know about me. Add to that that I will be ordained 47 years on March 1, and people in 13 church parishes have had to both put up with me and hopefully enjoy my presence as well. In thinking about all of this, most people know that I have some very serious health challenges. What they may not know is that I work hard, through prayer, at seeing these realities as a gift and not as a burden. These experiences have given me a tremendous grace to taste my own mortality and to think about death often and prepare as best as I can to anticipate my own dying and rising.