Augustinian brother says visual arts ministry is ‘a prayer’

By Joyce Duriga | Editor
Wednesday, November 4, 2020

Augustinian brother says visual arts ministry is ‘a prayer’

What began as an idea to save his community money on photographers and videographers for ordinations has since blossomed into a larger visual ministry for Augustinian Brother Dominic Smith.
Augustinian Brother Dominic Smith takes photos and videos near Promontory Point on Chicago’s lakeshore on Oct. 30, 2020. (Karen Callaway/Chicago Catholic)
A sample of Brother Dominic’s work covering a final profession. (Photo provided)

What began as an idea to save his community money on photographers and videographers for ordinations has since blossomed into a larger visual ministry for Augustinian Brother Dominic Smith.

Brother Dominic, who is from California and studying at Catholic Theological Union in Hyde Park, produces videos and photos that highlight the work of Augustinians around the country as well as elements of their spiritual life.

He entered the Augustinians four years ago and is pursuing priesthood. Before that, he worked as a safety officer in oil refineries, but Brother Dominic always had an interest in photography, and majored in communications in college.

“Even when I was traveling the country to different refineries, I always had my camera. I loved to pull off at some natural parks and different locations and just take pictures. My first passion is actually still photography,” he said.

When he entered the Augustinians, a friar who publishes a quarterly magazine for the community enlisted Brother Dominic’s help in taking photos for the periodical.

“This was a great partnership that I enjoyed very much,” Brother Dominic said. “I felt like the Augustinians were allowing me to be who I am and nurturing some of my natural gifts.”

The community encouraged him to enroll at John Paul the Great Catholic University in Escondido, California, for a degree in media communications, where he learned filmmaking.

There were many ordinations and professions around that time in his province, and the community was spending quite a bit on a photographer and videographer for each event.

He proposed that the Augustinian community invest some of that money in equipment so he could take photos and do livestreams and videos himself. He also proposed making short videos on topics like prayer, community life and formation. The videos also feature the work of community members.

The community accepted and Brother Dominic’s ministry keeps growing.

He continues to photograph and make videos of the many ordinations and professions in the community but he also produces features on different Augustinians, highlighting their ministry in the world. His videos have helped raise considerable donations for a variety of ministries.

“I enjoy helping to build the bridge between those that have the resources and those that need the resources. I think that media is a great platform in order for me to do that,” Brother Dominic said.

Sharing stories of faith through the visual arts is evangelization, Brother Dominic said.

“I feel, as a disciple of Jesus Christ, that one of the gifts that I’ve been entrusted with is storytelling,” he said. “I encounter Christ through the people that I interview, or through the people that I record. So that’s how I see it as a ministry.”

But it’s also more than that.

“Very much so, when I’m conducting interviews or when I’m runnin’ and gunnin’ and trying to capture a story, that’s my prayer,” he said. “I want it to be of the highest quality because it’s my offering to God, but it’s also my offering to my brothers and sisters in Christ.”

Sometimes it can be difficult not to put down the camera so that he can help at the sites he’s featuring, Brother Dominic said.

“I feel that it’s more important for me to document than to participate in the ministries I’m filming because more people can watch the video and be informed of the situation,” he said. “And if they would like to help, they are able to, because they are seeing exactly what’s going on.”

Being a visual storyteller isn’t just a hobby or a pastime for Brother Dominic.

“It’s very important to me to understand that I’ve been entrusted with this gear and that I don’t take this ministry lightly,” he said. “I understand that there is a responsibility that I have to use to use these tools for the glory of God.”

That’s something that he has in mind especially when he’s editing his videos, spending hours meticulously going over the footage.

“The one thing that keeps me going is that I know that I’m doing it as a service to my brothers and sisters as a ministry. This is the way that I am able to participate in the mission of God in a charitable way, reaching out to other men and women.”



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