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Saint Mary of Magdala

Saint Mary of Magdela is far more than just one of the Myrrhbearing Women the church remembers on the Third Sunday of Pascha; her life is of such great magnitude that it is referred to as the Primacy of Mary. That Mary of Magdala is venerated in the Orthodox, Roman Catholic, Lutheran, several Protestant churches, and even in the Baha’i Faith tradition, speaks of her prominence.

The ongoing beautification of Holy Trinity Church continued this weekend when our community received the gift of a shadow box, in production for nearly two months, designed to properly encase our church’s Plaschanitsa (Burial Shroud). This gift was made possible by a generous donation offered by Ms. Ravelle Brickman, a friend of our parish’s devoted Barbara Lacey. Ravelle and Barbara have maintained a nearly 70-year friendship since their time as students in the early 1950’s at New York’s City’s High School of Music and Art.

While the school has since been relocated to the midtown area of Lincoln Center, when Ravelle and Barbara attended, the High School of Music and Art was on Convent Avenue in West Harlem, majestically situated on top of a hill near Jaspar Oval Park and adjacent to the grassy fields of the City College of New York. A landmark stone Gothic building complete with a tower, it formerly was the property of a French Catholic women’s religious organization, The Society of the Sacred Heart. After Music and Art was moved, the building was designated as the site for New York City’s A. Philip Randolph Campus High School, and continues to be used for that purpose. M&A students still refer to it affectionately as “The Castle.”

“Barbara and I sat beside each other and we learned to draw by sketching each other,” Ms. Brickman said. “This gift is a tribute to a friendship born of love and art.” For the last four years, Ms. Brickman has been a feature writer for DC Metro Theater Arts, a daily publication chronicling arts and entertainment in Washington, DC. She enjoys being part of the booming theater scene in the nation's capital. She enjoys seeing and writing about the wonderful productions, both original works and revivals, staged in a beautiful setting.

Barbara, for her part, has spent a lifetime in academia, earning her undergraduate degree at Smith College, in Northampton, Massachusetts, as did Ravelle, where they continued their friendship for the next four years. Barbara then acquired a master’s degree in history at the University of Connecticut in Storrs; and her doctoral degree from Clark University in Worcester, Massachusetts. She taught for 23 years at the University of Saint Joseph in West Hartford, Connecticut, retiring as Professor of History Emeritus in 2006 after a serious automobile accident. She greatly values the fruitful years spent there with students and faculty. Barbara has had three books published in her field of early American Studies, available in many American scholarly libraries and around the world. Research articles by her have been accepted and published by professional journals, and she has presented papers on art history at conferences She has also presented papers in art history in France, the Netherlands, as well as in the United States and Canada.

“The framing of the Plaschanitsa will allow it to be displayed, and venerated, throughout the year, with the exception of the period from Pascha to Holy Ascension where it is placed on the altar, rather than having it folded up and placed in a drawer throughout the year as has been the case,” Holy Trinity pastor, Father Marc Vranes said. “This is a treasured piece of art history to add to our beautiful church. I am overjoyed with this gift, and remain grateful to Ms. Brickman. I honor the seven-decade long friendship both she and Barbara have worked hard to maintain.”

The 30”x42” plexi-glass case for the shroud was made by Claudette Marshall of CADMarshall Framing in Willimantic; she has done previous framing for Holy Trinity as well. Gratitude is also expressed to Mike Massaro of Town & Country Cleaners in Watertown, CT, where the shroud was first taken for cleaning and to remove the wax and dust that had accumulated over the years. In turn, Mr Massaro passed along the shroud to Sally Lorensen Conant, Ph.D., a former museum curator who handles the cleaning of high end museum pieces and specializes in wedding gown restoration. Sally, who had previous made a trip to the Holy Land in Jerusalem, was so moved by the exquisite beauty of Holy Trinity’s shroud, she decided to extend her professional cleaning services to Holy Trinity at no cost.

“Many people had a hand in this project,” Father Marc added. “We are grateful for their devotion to our church, and we especially ask our good and loving Lord to stretch form his hand to bless Ravelle, Barbara, Michael, Sally, and Claudette.”

May God repay.

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