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Local Artist To Create Icon Of The Holy Family For World Meeting Of Families

By Pat Ciarrocchi

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) -- Preparations are underway for an "expected" visit from Pope Francis, during the World Meeting of Families next year. That includes the creation of a religious icon to be used to promote the World Meeting.

A Kennett Square, Chester County artist got the commission and as Pat Ciarrocchi has learned, his art is also his mission.

These days, all day Neil Carlin is living among the saints. His artistic mission is sacred.

"That was a vocation I was searching for my entire life," said Carlin.

Working in his Kennett Square studio, Carlin stands at the crossroads of vocation and commission.

He has been asked to create the Icon of the Holy Family for the World Meeting of Families – the September 2015 gathering in Philadelphia which is expected to be the centerpiece of Pope Francis' first Papal visit to the United States.

Carlin explains the image as the Holy Family, with Mary, Joseph, Jesus and then, the extended family of Anna and Joachim, Mary's Mother and Father.

As for the famous visitor?

"The thought of him (The Pope) seeing the work... it added a certain level of anxiety to the creation of it. "

For the first time, Carlin stood with journalists in front of a copy of the black and white sketch – the foundation for the Baroque style painting he is doing in oil, and on canvas. He's in the last stages of the painting, but it's under wraps until September.

"It's humbling and exciting to do this for the global Catholic community," said Carlin.

As an artist with a sacred mission, you might think that Carlin was born into the Catholic tradition. Fourteen years, ago, he chose Catholicism and converted from his Lutheran faith, in the midst of finding his artistic calling.

"When somebody looks at this (icon), if I'm being true to my mission…  my vocation... it's to have this piece guide them toward the Divine," said Carlin. "Not get caught up in me."

Though not commercial in concept, the painting of the Holy Family will be used prominently to promote the World Meeting of Families, with the original, on exhibit at the Cathedral Basilica of Sts. Peter and Paul to Divinely inspire.

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