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Walls inside St. Vincent de Paul Church in Germantown reflect story of hope and representation

Meet the artist who helped a Germantown church prioritize representation in art
Meet the artist who helped a Germantown church prioritize representation in art 02:13

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — When a Germantown church needed to renovate, it took the opportunity to rethink its artwork to better reflect its community.

On the walls inside St. Vincent de Paul Roman Catholic Church in Germantown is a story of hope and representation.

"Two things are most important in the whole project ... Jesus and the cross," artist Cavin Jones said.

Jones is the artist behind the 14 Stations of the Cross, representing Jesus' journey to crucifixion and death, painting Jesus as a Black man.

"I was changed from the process of everything I had to go through in my personal life," Jones said. "Coincidently I was doing these paintings, and I came out a different person."

And painting a very different Jesus.

One of the paintings Cavin Jones created for St. Vincent de Paul Church in Germantown CBS News Philadelphia

Four years ago, Jones was hired to paint each station to reflect the people who fill the pews on any given Sunday — people who look like him.

The Rev. Sylvester Peterka has led the parish for 11 years and serves a congregation that is predominantly Black and Brown people.

"We wanted a cultural diversity so everybody could feel this is my church," Peterka said. "Germantown is probably 85% African descent, African American or African."

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Julie Kring was a part of hiring Jones. She said Black representation in the 14 stations isn't seen in many churches. She will never forget a conversation she had with a Black girl in Sunday school several years ago.

"There was the traditional painting of Jesus with the children," Kring said, "and Jesus was White and all the children were White, and the little girl looked up to me and said, 'Ms. Julie, did Jesus hang out with little Black kids too?'"

Jones' paintings are the answer to that question.

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The rich colors in every painting shine bright after a year-long journey.

"I didn't want to use this sort of traditional robes and and gowns and stuff that usually you see in these kind of paintings," Jones said. "Some of the clothing, I changed the color."

He hopes that difference is felt by every parishioner and that every station celebrates the uniqueness of the church's community.

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