By MARI’s Staff
Two Canadian women have formed a group which shows its devotion to Saint Sharbel in a unique fashion. They meet each Tuesday and paint portraits of Saint Sharbel. This is the story of Brenda McDermott, née Peters (original name Soaib), who is of Maronite Lebanese descent, and Sherry R. Fanjoy, who is an artist and portrait painter of Saint John New Brunswick. They are the prime movers in this endeavor to spread devotion to Saint Sharbel. 
Brenda's grandparents migrated from Hadsheet, North Lebanon, to Saint John, New Brunswick in the late 1800s. Because the Maronites at that time wanted to be accepted in their new communities, they did not send for a Maronite priest nor did they build a church of their own. They attended the Latin Catholic churches and were uninformed about their own particular spiritual and historical heritage. Brenda's father died when she was ten years old and she was raised by her mother who was French Canadian. Brenda always longed to know about the land of her father's ancestors and so she read the works of Khalil Jibran. This, along with printed literature and Lebanese and/or Maronite sites on the Internet, increased her curiosity and quest for more knowledge. A book about Saint Sharbel, which had been left in church by John Debly of the Lebanese community, impressed her and aroused more interest in the Saint, her spiritual heritage, and the land of Lebanon.  
Because of her growing devotion, Brenda asked her artist friend, Sherry, to paint a portrait of Saint Sharbel from a photograph. Sherry was slow in responding to Brenda's request but finally began the portrait. Sherry described her feelings while painting the portrait as rapturous and somehow spiritual. Sherry claimed that she felt a spiritual bond with the Saint and wanted to know more about him. She read the copy of the book about Saint Sharbel which John Debly had left in church. Sherry said that learning about the Saint gave her life new meaning. Even Sherry's three-year old grandson Ethan recognizes Saint Sharbel's portrait which hangs on the wall and describes him, saying "he is God's friend".  
Brenda was greatly impressed by the finished portrait that she wanted to learn to paint herself. During the past summer, she and a few other women began painting portraits of Saint Sharbel under the guidance of Sherry. Brenda says that Saint Sharbel has brought her peace and hope and that she wants his portrait hung on walls, far and wide. When Guita Hourani, Chairwoman of MARI, was visiting the Lebanese community of Saint John this past October, she participated in a

painting session. Hourani described the session as a wonderful experience which began with a prayer. “As we proceeded with the painting of the portrait”, said Hourani, “we were listening to chants from the CD ‘A Handful of Sand and Incense’ and talking about Saint Sharbel's life and spirituality…. The atmosphere was of joy and camaraderie, an experience that I would like to repeat.”   
The group which meets each Tuesday plans to visit Lebanon and Saint Sharbel's hermitage in the summer of 2001.  
In order to assist MARI in its mission, Sherry Fanjoy is donating her talent and labor to paint portraits of Saint Sharbel at cost and at no profit to herself. Those who wish to commission this unique work of art, measuring 12x16 inches, in oil or acrylic on canvas, and unframed, may do so for $175 US Dollars. This includes materials, shipping and handling, with the remaining 35% of the proceedings donated to support MARI’s mission. To order a painting and for other details, please write to Brenda McDermott, 897 Bleury Street, Saint John, New Brunswick, E2M 3H7, Canada. Her e-mail address is:  
Sherry R. Fanjoy (Day) was born in Saint John, New Brunswick, Canada, in 1954. Because she married at a young age and then tended the family, she was not able to pursue formal studies to develop her talent in painting. However, she took art classes whenever possible. Her most valuable learning experience came from well-known and respected artists in Saint John. She joined the Saint John Art Club where she held positions as an art teacher, Vice President of the Club and later its President. Sherry participated in many group exhibits in Saint John and the province. Of particular interest is "The Festival By the Sea", an annual celebration that draws people from near and far; "Art Walk", which is a tour undertaken by the artists of Saint John; and "MiniArt Raffle", a fundraiser to promote art in the city. She also has exhibited solo. At one of her shows, a collector purchased all of her 21 paintings of boat scenes. Her job as a school bus driver in Saint John has provided her with many models for portraits which she prefers doing more than anything else. She loves the students and gives portraits of them as their graduation gifts. Sherry perfected her skills by doing portraits of her own children and those of her friends. Though she has received commissions to paint in various genres, her passion remains portraiture. Her preference is acrylics even though she paints in every medium. Of all her activities, she treasures her teaching art to juvenile offenders. She has described as most satisfying and rewarding her giving these young boys a constructive way in which to express themselves.