THE Donegal woman leading the Mary’s Meals campaign in Ireland says she was “overwhelmed” to be asked to participate in a new portrait exhibition.
An oil painting of Patricia Friel from Ramelton has gone on display in Galway Cathedral. It is part of a collection entitled ‘People For Others’ by artist Sara Kyne.
The portraits honour 20 people who have founded or who run charitable foundations. Among those captured on canvas are Fr Peter McVerry, children’s rights campaigner Christina Noble, social activist Sr Stan Kennedy and Cuan Mhuire founder Sr Consilio Fitzgerald.
Patricia Friel is Executive Director of Mary’s Meals Ireland, an organisation that feeds children in 20 of the poorest countries in the world.
She began volunteering with the charity nine years ago and has helped it grow to the point where two million children every school day benefit from its work.
Revealing how her participation in the Sara Kyne exhibition came about, Patricia told the Donegal News, “Sara had one canvas left and she called the Marino Institute where we are based. I thought it was someone looking to offer a painting for raffle until she started to explain that she had heard about me and would I like to be part of the project.”
The recommendation to invite Patricia to sit for ‘People For Others’ came from none other than the Papal Nuncio, the point-of-contact between the Catholic hierarchy in Ireland and the Pope.
After receiving an assurance that it would help create awareness of the work Mary’s Meals does, Patricia agreed.
“I was overwhelmed and I asked how would it help create awareness of Mary’s Meals. Under the portrait is a plaque about Mary’s Meals and what we do.”
The painting process involved Sara Kyne taking hundreds of photos of Patricia before getting her to sit in-person.
She described it as a “beautiful experience” and said she was delighted with the finished product. There is however one thing missing.
“My sister saw it and said it’s beautiful but that I’m not smiling. I told her there was no way I could hold a smile for three hours straight.
“Without doubt it’s a beautiful painting, just for the fact that I’m not smiling because I’m always smiling. Mary’s Meals is such happy work you can’t help but smile.”
People For Others will hang in Galway Cathedral until July 30. After that Patricia hopes to bring it Donegal at some point. Each image will eventually be auctioned off with the proceeds going to each individual good cause.
“I would love to get it to Donegal and we’ll see what happens. But all credit has to go to the artist. Sara bought the canvas and gave so much of her time and effort yet won’t make a single penny from it. That is a beautiful thing to do.”