Artist Sister Cornelia Sclafani Celebrates 80th Jubilee in Our Order

    This year, Sister Cornelia Sclafani, an artist, is celebrating 80 years as a Sister of St. Dominic of Amityville.  
    The last piece of art that S. Cornelia created was the face of Christ entitled, "Jesus."  It was not painted in oils or water colors, it was sketched on simple white paper with a pencil. 
    Although it was 20 years ago, Sisters Jean Albert Fry and Lora Bannon still remember the day they first saw the drawing.  S. Cornelia had said, "I want to show you something I did today," recalled S. Jean.   The sisters fell in love with the drawing, asking her how long it took to complete.  The answer?  One hour.
   S. Cornelia created it while contemplating her upcoming 60th Jubilee.  This truly was "a labor of love," said S. Jean.  "Sister Cornelia had arthritis so she usually couldn't sketch or paint."
     The artwork was so beautiful that the sisters decided to sell framed copies of it at the Christmas Boutique at Our Lady of Guadalupe School in Brooklyn.  The Boutique began on Friday and continued for the weekend at which time all copies were sold out.  An additional 200 copies were made to fulfill further demand.  The also were sold out.  At the request of S. Cornelia, all proceeds from the sale of the pictures were given to the poor of OLG parish.  "People to this day are still asking for copies," said S. Lora.  "All our family and friends have them!"  
     S. Cornelia's career as an artist is exceptional, especially noting that most sisters in those years became teachers.  She taught first grade for one year at Out Lady of Solace in Coney Island, but due to a bad case of the measles as a child, she had a problem with her voice.  "She could not project her voice in class, so in a very short time, she left teaching," S. Lora recalled.
    She pursued her passion: art. Sister Jean explained that while other children played outside, S. Cornelia "would sit at the kitchen table and sketch whatever was in her head or around the house."
     She began to work under S. Jeremita, another Dominican artist who worked in the Montrose Studio.  "S. Cornelia continued for many years further developing her talents and skills of art," recalled S. Jean.  "It came naturally to her: oils, water color, pencils, charcoal, pastels, whatever she felt she needed for what she wanted to work on."  She painted on various materials: canvas, glass, paper, parchment paper and even ceramic.  She often created Papal Blessings by hand with beautiful calligraphy.  She was the last artist to work in the Montrose Studio.
     Although she worked for years creating art, it is hard to find copies of her work.  Living in the spirit of prayerful poverty and simplicity, S. Cornelia loved giving her art away and held onto only a few material possessions.  That being said, visitors to the Queen of the Rosary Motherhouse in Amityville, will still see photocopies of her "Jesus" framed in the rooms of sisters or taped to the nurses' stations, as well as a few paintings in the Heritage Center on the first floor.  

Sisters of St. Dominic of Amityville
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Sisters of St. Dominic of Amityville

Lena Pennino-Smith, Office of Communications

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