Saintly drawings support a life of ministry

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With a little ink from a hot pink gel pen, Carmen Briceño adds a touch of color to the flower crown atop her St. Rose of Lima sketch. All around her home office lay tan Moleskine journals sporting vibrant cartoon drawings of popular saints. As soon as she’s finished with this one, she’ll mail the batch of personalized journals to a prayer group member who’s hoping to surprise her friends with the gifts of sacred art.

Briceño, a parishioner of All Saints Church in Manassas and a Catholic Herald columnist, has loved to draw ever since she was a child. She studied art and visual technology at George Mason University in Fairfax. But it wasn’t until a year ago that she launched Sacred Print, an online shop that sells her designs on journals, pins and magnets. Her first picture is still her favorite — Our Lady of Guadalupe.

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Carmen Briceño, a Catholic artist from Manassas, draws St. Rose of Lima on a journal while wearing an Our Lady of Guadalupe shirt she designed. ZOEY MARAIST  |  Catholic Herald

“I did one little notebook and showed my friends. They started asking me if I did a John Paul II. I said no, but I could,” said Briceño. Now, there are 70 saints to choose from and more on the way. Each customer who asks for a new saint gives her the opportunity to learn something new and turn it into art.

For each saint, Briceño researches their story and what they might have looked like. Then she draws each saint wearing or holding something that’s indicative of them, such as St. John Bosco juggling or St. Juan Diego wearing the tilma with the image of Our Lady of Guadalupe. As Briceño draws, she prays for the recipients of the journals.

“People started ordering journals with specific prayer intentions, so it really became a powerful ministry,” she said. “A (campus minster) asked me to do 20 journals — 10 of Rose of Lima and 10 of Martin de Porres — for when they went on their mission trip to Peru. So in praying for these teens who will be using these journals, I became a part of their mission.”

For several years, Briceño worked as the youth minster of All Saints, but later felt called to leave the full-time job for mission work around the diocese. As a consecrated virgin, she spends much of her days in prayer or out in the community evangelizing. She is able to give talks for free in part because she sells her artwork at the events. Between online and in person, she sells 20 to 100 items a month.

Ten percent of the Sacred Print proceeds go toward another passion of Briceño’s: helping the homeless. Last year, she and a friend discovered a homeless tent camp in Manassas behind a strip mall of restaurants. They decided to bring the people living there hot breakfast, which they now do every Friday. They also bring a table so they can sit with the homeless, hear their needs and pray with them. Briceño eventually hopes to have a washer/dryer truck so the homeless can wash their clothes for free.

Her shop also sells a wallet with the printed words “Remember the Poor” on one side and the verses of Matthew 25 on the other.

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Briceno uses her sacred artwork to support her missionary work and the homeless in Manassas.

“If you use this as your wallet, the next time you’re tempted to spend $8 on a drink, you look at your wallet and think, is that the best idea?” she said. “Or, I encourage people to buy gift cards so you always have something to give the poor.”

Whether it’s giving a talk to teens, serving the homeless or designing original art, Briceno believes all her  work has the ultimate goal of bringing people closer to Christ. “It’s all connected,” she said. “It sparks conversations. This art is evangelizing.”  

© Arlington Catholic Herald 2017

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