Deroche resident Daphne Sleigh is the author of The Artist in the Cloister

Art in the Abbey

Life and works of Father Dunstan Massey portrayed in new book

Deroche author Daphne Sleigh’s newest book paints a detailed picture of one of the most talented, yet unknown, artists in B.C.

Father Dunstan Massey has been the artist in residence at Mission’s Westminster Abbey since it first opened almost 60 years ago. Visitors to the popular Benedictine monastery often marvel at the paintings, sculptures and stained glass work that line the halls and rooms of the church, but few take the time to discover that many of the great pieces were created by one man.

Sleigh was familiar with Massey’s work even before she met him.

“I’ve often been up to the Abbey and seen his sculptures and other works,” said Sleigh, who had already written two biographies and was looking for another subject when the artist caught her attention.

The catalyst was when she saw Massey’s work featured in a TV documentary seven years ago.

“It occurred to me that right here, where I live, is a wonderful artist,” she stated.

Sleigh was impressed with Massey’s versatility with different art forms from oil paints and ceramics to tapestries.

“There seems to be nothing he can’t turn his hand to,” said Sleigh, whose favourite Massey piece is a mural called Tree of Life. The soft colours, graceful figures and symbolism portrayed captured her imagination.

Massey is currently working on a silver-gilt crucifix which will hang over the alter when it’s completed.

There are two currents running through Sleigh’s book, The Artist in the Cloister, The Life and Works of Father Dunstan Massey: the evolution of his art and the story about him growing up.

“He was a child prodigy in art,” explained Sleigh. “His talents were recognized at age 13 and he had sponsors who financed his art education.”

Massey was also a gifted musician, but at 18 years of age, he decided to enter the monastery.

“He came from a deeply Catholic family. Teachers tried to dissuade him and get him to pursue the arts, but he persisted.”

Massey finally became a priest at age 31.

Sleigh is a local historian and author who has been writing books since 1972. Her works include Discovering Deroche, which won the Lieutenant-Governor’s  Medal from the B.C. Historical Federation, and three biographies.

The Artist in the Cloister is available at Black Bond Books in the Junction, Mission Arts Centre, and the Mission Visitor Centre on the Lougheed Highway.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Mission’s Walker signed by B.C. Lions

Former Roadrunner, Langley Ram standout signed by CFL club

Time capsule discovered, opened at Mission elementary school

Capsule opened in front of students from West Heights Community School

How would crowded Fraser Valley hospitals deal with patient surge? Officials won’t say

Amid coronavirus case and crowding issues, health officials won’t say where more patients would go

Sasquatch Mountain Aussie Day celebration raises $800

Proceeds of bikini runs, toonie tosses and more go to wildfire victims

Salvation Army kettle campaign raises $121,000 in Abbotsford

Christmas fundraising up $20,000 over previous year

VIDEO: Feds look to help 126 Canadians quarantined in China for coronavirus

China has confirmed more than 4,500 cases of the new virus, with more than 100 deaths

Party bus door fault for years ahead of Langley woman’s death: Coroner

Tuesday report classifed Chelsea James’ death accidental, but was critical of bus inspection process

Sap thief taps Saanich park maple trees, faces hefty fine

One tree found with four taps in Mount Doug Park

B.C. reports first coronavirus in Vancouver region

First patient visited Wuhan, China, reported symptoms

Uber threatens legal action to ‘defend its right’ to operate in Surrey

‘I have no concerns,’ Mayor Doug McCallum replies

Victoria resident says WestJet employee uttered racist comment, refused to let her on plane

Customer claims she was told ‘You guys can’t handle your alcohol’ by WestJet employee

Bystander who tried to help dog being attacked not liable for its death: B.C. tribunal

Owner of dog killed tried to get $5,000 in damages from man who tried to save it

INFOGRAPHIC: See how fast your B.C. city grew in 2019

The province’s fastest-growing municipalities were located on Vancouver Island

Landowner hearings begin for Trans Mountain expansion in Alberta

Detailed route talks start in Spruce Grove, in B.C. communities soon

Most Read