Using Parishioner Art on Bulletin Covers

August 25, 2022  •   LPi

person ready front of bulletin cover

Sean Reilly is the Director of Communications at Our Lady of the Wayside Parish in Arlington Heights, Illinois and he’s discovered a fantastic way to connect his church’s ministries to their larger church community using original bulletin cover art each week. We sat down with him to talk about this yearlong project and how it has positively impacted his community.

Q. Tell us a little about what inspired you to use parishioner art on the covers of your bulletins.
A. I came on as Director of Communications during the first of the COVID lockdowns and my goal was to make sure that any signs of life happening at our parish were conveyed to parishioners during those uncertain times. One of the things I recognized was that there were communication gaps between our church’s ministries, the good work each was doing, and our larger church community. We needed to find a way to bridge the gaps and create something interactive to bring families and community members together.

Q. Amazing! What ministries have contributed bulletin cover art?
A. Well, to start, we decided to focus on our parish youth, so we had our 3rd to 5th graders, both in the religious education program and in the school, create our first wave of covers. I asked our school and religious education leaders to present the idea to them, and to select the covers we’d be using from those submitted. When it came to cover selection, it wasn’t always about going with museum-quality art. Sometimes it was about assuring certain kids, who might be in need a self-esteem boost or peer-recognition, receive recognition. We figured this was vital, and what a church community is all about!

We received art from the youth from both the school and religious education programs including the youth group. It gave them a chance to have a spotlight in the parish. Youth whose covers were selected received framed copies of the covers so that they could hold it up and say, “I did that!” and be proud of their work.

We’ve gotten covers from the school, religious education program, youth ministry, our SPREAD program who work with young adults with disabilities, lectors, and ministers of care. Our summer VBS program submitted a boatload of covers over summer break! This week’s cover is from an adult choir member. Our goal is to have parishioners of all ages involved, not just our youth.

Q. How many covers will you do?
A. 52 covers! We started in Advent of 2021 and will finish in Advent of 2022, so, a full year’s worth of parishioner art on our bulletins. Advent was a great time to start because it is such a magical time in our church calendar and people are getting excited about Christmas.

Q. How have the covers been received by the community?
A. All positive! The parishioners have enjoyed seeing the covers and the interpretation of the week’s readings through the eyes of their younger members. One email I received from a long-time parishioner said:
“I love the children’s drawings on the cover of the bulletins. What a great way to get to the heart of the message that: We love God, we believe in God, we listen to God. And what a great way to help children know that they are an important part of the parish community.”

Q. Have you seen an uptick in bulletin distribution and interaction?
A. There were a few times when our reserve bulletin supply in the office totally ran out because people whose children’s art was featured wanted to pick up extras to give to family members and friends. That’s great because the bulletins become an evangelization tool that extends beyond the parish and into the greater community. The merits of this program exceeded my expectations and I believe it truly was Holy Spirit inspired!

Q. Do you have any favorite covers done by the youth?
A. It’s hard to choose a favorite but one that really blew me away was anonymously submitted by a member of the youth group and featured the Baptism of the Lord (that week’s gospel). It was rich with blue water and red fire swirling around, and when it hit my desk, I was just like, “Whoa, THAT is powerful!” and everyone who saw it agreed!

Q. What advice would you give a church interested in doing this themselves?
A. Just do it and, once you do it, promote it! Put it in the weekly newsletter, on the website, on your church’s social media channels, everywhere!

A great big thank you to Sean for sharing this experience with us! If you want to learn more about this special bulletin cover project, check out the OLW parish website or check out some of their covers.

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Aurora Daly
1 month ago

On my wishlist already…when the right artists come along!

Last edited 1 month ago by Aurora Daly
16 days ago
Reply to  Aurora Daly

Isn’t this a fun idea??